Globally, 2 billion people have no access to formal financial services. There are great gaps especially for women, the very poor, and those living in rural areas. Because of their precarious situation, poor people need financial services even more than the non-poor not only to save or build for the future, but often to survive day-to-day.
According to a recent study 20.6% of India’s population lacks access to basic bank accounts. However, mobile penetration is on the rise. 76% of India’s population now has access to a mobile phone, making this a promising, cost-effective channel to deliver financial services to the poor.
Women often face additional barriers: lower literacy levels; less access to mobile phones; restrictions on travel or social interaction; or less confidence in using technology.
More than one-quarter of the global population lacks access to formal financial services. There may be no banks or ATMs within miles, and no good roads to reach them. Although digital technology is opening new channels for delivering financial services, but challenges persist. Inconsistent network coverage, sparse populations, lack of trust, or insufficient capital for building new business models can stand in the way of success, particularly in connecting remote or underserved communities.
Supported by Citi Foundation, Grameen Foundation India is executing an innovative partnership between Sonata, a MFI, and Oxigen, India’s first and largest payment solution company, to route MFI repayments through mobile money. This repayment will act as an introductory transaction for clients to develop their mobile financial capability as well as to start using mobile money to access digital financial services.
The project is designed to let Sonata reduce the cash management burden and focus on its core strength as a trusted intermediary to develop the financial capability of the clients and on delivering financial services to the poor, while Oxigen will focus on providing a digital transaction channel to the poor. The pilot program has reached out to over 23,222 clients in training them on mobile financial services, of which 7000+ clients have done at least one repayment using DFS. 3000+ clients used the services for at least three times for their regular loan repayments. This payment option has been introduced at over 18 branches at Sonata and transactions have started flowing in, till May 2016 transactions worth INR 1.4 crore have been routed through Oxigen Micro ATM’s and the project is now being scaled up across more branches at Sonata.
Oxigen is targeting to get more customers in semi-urban and rural areas to help start transacting without cash and intends to increase installations of such devices by one million in three years’ time. Micro ATMs are devices that are similar to the swipe machines found at retail outlets. In addition to supporting credit and debit card payments, these terminals also allow customers to withdraw cash from the merchant, pay utility bills and transfer funds.