Enabling Financial Inclusion On A Digital Platform
Recent studies state that over 19 percent of the Indian population is still unbanked or is financially excluded. Financial Inclusion is undoubtedly one of the most important milestones that the Government and the RBI focus on and must be attained for sustainable growth of the population. The main objective of financial inclusion is to ensure access to formal credit for people who depend on informal sources for fulfilling their financial needs at an affordable cost in a fair and transparent manner. This will not only help close the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged sections of the society, but also contribute significantly to the country's socio-economic growth. This is the space where the microfinance industry operates in.
Microfinance Industry caters to customers, primarily women, in the rural and semi-urban areas where mainstream banking is inadequate. The Indian microfinance industry has NBFC MFIs, SFBs, NBFCs and also universal banks operating in the space. In its efforts to mainstream financial inclusion in India, MFIs provide loans and distribute financial products like insurance, banking and pension products, as well as other non-financial products. These small ticket sized loans do not require collateral; prospective customers are identified based on neighbourhoods and needs. However, managing microfinance business without using enterprise management systems, automation, measurement and optimization of the day-to-day operational process is both inefficient and resource consuming. MFIs also have to strive to lower their operating costs as this gets added to the cost of funds for the final pricing to the end customer. MFIs were thus quick to understand the potential and need for digitization of operations and have taken the much needed step with the implementation of mobility platforms.
The purpose of mobility is to capture operational transactions in the field on a real time basis, using mobile applications and hardware such as tablets/smartphones. We have been one of the first NBFC MFIs to move beyond a pilot phase to a full rollout phase within eight months. In our organization, all our 2500 odd customer service representatives have been equipped with hand-held devices. We have utilized mobile application to onboard members, track their training, disburse loans, and use it to collect repayments.
It is also the right time for MFIs to on-board their customers onto a digital transactions platform. In over a year of demonetisation, the digital payments and transactions segment has been the most focused within the Indian FinTech landscape. While mobility plug-ins with the back-end Loan Management System, it also facilitates Business Correspondents and Partnerships to explore possibilities of cash light/less disbursements and collections, and geo-tagging helps identify remote customer meeting points. Unique efforts have been made in our organisation to partner with banks, both old school and new age payment banks, in order to bring not only a bank account, but also provide accessible banking services and products to the unbanked. With the help of tech enabled field staff who carry mobile tablets to on-board customers, this is indeed a well-timed effort to enroll customers for instant bank accounts using Aadhar enabled e-KYC. This digital finance platform will be the basis for customers to conduct assisted financial transactions with financial institutions, as well as within their own communities. Our estimates show a close to one billion e-transactions possibility per year in the sector which has over 40 million beneficiaries.
An efficient digital system allows staff to source new clients and helps them provide quality service to their existing customers in a shorter span of time
This ability to provide financial services via digital channels, improves efficiencies, cuts-down expenses and improves credit quality. With the use of digitization, we have rationalized the use of cash and enhanced operational efficiencies. The access to digitalised credit system and user-friendly digital platforms may also be leveraged to enable customers with the `power of choice' which, in our organisation, has been facilitated through a unique rural assisted e-Commerce platform which is available in the form of a mobile-app.
The prevailing micro-finance model of group lending is highly cash intensive, where both loan disbursement and repayment is generally done in cash and generally at the customers' doorstep. This is a tedious time-consuming process, requiring meticulous calculations which bear heavily on the MFI's front-line staff. An efficient digital system allows staff to source new clients and helps them provide quality service to their existing customers in a shorter span of time. The benefits of digitization have been felt throughout our organization, where turn-around-times have reduced up to 50 percent across processes and the flexibility of our solution reduces the time to market for customers and new products.
With technology, innovation and knowledge becoming the key drivers of growth today, the MFI industry is transforming. Emerging technologies have the potential to revolutionize the customer experience, especially at the `last mile' by providing greater levels of personalized service and greatly improving the back-office efficiencies at financial institutions, thus playing one of the most significant roles in the objective of financial inclusion.