Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eko: Financial Azaadi for the Unbanked Indian Population

From CGAP's Focus Notes 47:

    • But in the same way that access to clean water is more than being able to buy a bottle of water, access to finance is more than being able to get the occasional loan.
    • Access to finance really involves being connected to a national payments system, much like the national electricity network.
    • Once I have a transactional account in a “payment grid,” I can receive and repay loans, save up and withdraw from a savings account, and use the proceeds to pay for what I need.
    • This transactional account is my gateway to a range of financial services, it gives me a financial history, and it is the basis from which I can manage my financial life.

Eko's objective is to connect the vast untapped & unbanked Indian population to the Financial Services industry with the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Really impressed with their work, I shot off an email to Abhishek Sinha, CEO requesting his thoughts on Eko, future plans and using ICT for making financial education available to one & all.

Thankyou, Abhishek for your prompt response and it's reproduced below the fold:

About Eko: I used to run a mobile value added services company before doing Eko. We did some mobile commerce projects in my previous company and what came across blatantly was the fact that there was no mobile commerce for people who used cash and did not have bank accounts or credit cards. This germinated the idea behind Eko though it has evolved to a great extent.

Future Plans: Today, Eko has evolved and will continually evolve into a very low cost infrastructure for financial services. We are working towards extremely low cost of transactions and servicing while making the model rapidly scalable. Any financial product should be able to ride over it and reach the unreached. In a very similar thought process, we are looking for a scalable model for financial literacy / awareness.

About ICT: As far as ICT is concerned, I am in total agreement with you. Even in Eko we try and look at ICT for most of our problems as apart from the solution it ensure efficiency and low cost. We have adopted mobile as a channel as we see a mobile phone as a low energy consuming, always on IT device which should be used to connect to the customer. Mobile has breached geographic boundaries as well as customer segments.

While using mobile, we leverage a lot existing behavior associated with mobile. This video should explain this more.

Thankyou, Abhishek and all the very best.

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