India, as one of the BRICS, is a fast-growing and exploding country. Named a ‘superpower-in-waiting’ by The Economist recently, it is attracting investors and many a business to tap into this wealth of people, services and skills. Which creates wealth, and indeed, there is a booming middle class taking advantage of this growth, especially in urban centers.
All well and good. But what about the millions of Indian citizens without even a bank account to their name? 55% of India’s adults are either under-served or not served at all by the finance sector, according to The Boston Consulting Group. Of a population of 1.2 billion, while the big cities and urban areas are seeing investment and economic growth, leading to a prosperous urban minority, the rural population is missing out on what developed countries take for granted.
Thanks to the rise of M-PESA and microbanking services, there is a way around this. Technology is being made available to almost ten million Financial Inclusion Network & Operations (FINO) customers in India to enable them to take advantage of banking services.
We have already been working with a provider in Indonesia to reach 90% of its unbanked population and are now helping India to reach out to its citizens. By providing smartcards and working closely with microfinance partners, banks and Non-Governmental Organizations serving low-income households in the urban and rural regions of India, all citizens can benefit from banking services.
Transactions are validated using biometric authentication, providing one of the highest degrees of digital security available. End-user card transactions are approved after fingerprint information is verified through the payment terminal held by FINO employees, called “Bandhus”. Bandhus are FINO agents who move around by bicycle carrying a portable smartcard reader, to help villagers with their everyday transactions. They can also be based at retail outlets or partner premises. Each FINO card can securely store up to 15 types of applications that facilitate financial services such as deposit remittances, savings, loans, insurance and e-purses.
“FINO’s goal is to make financial services available to everyone in the country, especially in rural areas. Gemalto’s ‘one-card-does-all’ solution is one of our key enablers to deliver this vision,” said Manish Khera, Chief Executive Officer, FINO. “Since the card introduction in 2007, our customers have complimented its convenience and added value to their daily lives. With more than half of India’s population unbanked, we are rapidly expanding our geographical coverage and extra services offered.”
Banking and related services should be made available to all. The technology exists to enable this – it’s down to the organizations in each country and region to work closely with partners to realize these opportunities.