According to the World Bank, the average banked population in low-income countries is 32.6 percent, while the average banked population in high-income economies is 90.5 percent, despite the fact that low-income economies’ GDP per capita is less than 2% of high-income economies’. Even a little increase in financial inclusion can result in an exponential rise in economic development.
In India the majority of the population, nearly 65% of total population, lives in rural areas. Among them, there are still many people without bank accounts or easy access to financial services. Because financial inclusion and economic growth go hand in hand, India’s significant number of unbanked citizens is cause for concern.
The matter of concern here is to include the disadvantaged or population of rural India into the financial system, as any transaction outside of this system is loss for the economy. To address this issue, the RBI and Government of India have been working.
The RBI has been encouraging the banking sector to expand its network by opening new physical branches, expanding the scope of business correspondents, and installing new ATMs/WLAs at every tier. The government has previously implemented many initiatives such as no-frills zero balance Jan Dhan accounts, DBT programmes, issuance of RuPay cards, issuance of Kisan Credit Cards, Aadhaar-enabled programmes, and unified payment interface throughout the last decade, all this to bank the unbanked citizens of country.
All this has worked, as In 2017, approximately 80% of Indians (aged 15 and up) have a financial institution or mobile-money service provider account, up from 35% in 2011. Account ownership among Indian men increased from over 62 percent in 2014 to 83 percent in 2017. In 2017, female involvement climbed from 43% in 2014 to over 76% in 2017. All of these figures increased even more after 2020, thanks to Covid-19 and the pandemic’s digital transformation.
Apart from steps taken by RBI and GOI, the factor behind this rise is the emergence of Neo Banks. Neo banks are financial institutions that operate entirely on digital platforms using internet, mobile applications and websites.
The Unbanked Population
It is witnessed that out of the unbanked sector, there is a big chunk which is of women, specially from poor households in rural areas, who do not have access to financial services and are unbanked.
Though there has been a rise in account ownership of poor people due to schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, poor adults still occupy a great share among the banked.
In India there is a fair share of people between the ages 15-21 in the population, and in this population there is a great share of people who still do not have any bank account and are excluded from the financial system.
It is observed that the majority of these unbanked citizens have bare minimum education and knowledge and do not have bank accounts, either due to lack of knowledge or because of the fear of getting their money stolen.
Why are people unbanked ?
- Lack of Infrastructure-
There are nearly 664,369 villages in India. And to cover such a population which resides in these villages, it is not possible to have so many branches of banks. Having a branch of a bank comes with costs- cost of setting up, maintenance and so on and having a branch of bank in every village where each village has a population of say 5000 is not possible and feasible. To solve this issue GOI came up with kiosks in rural areas but still that costs more than the value and becomes a reason for loss for the government.
As it is not feasible to have a bank in every village, the nearest bank branch is also far away from many villages, which people acknowledge as a reason for being unbanked.
- Lack of Education-
Individuals who are unaware of the advantages and importance of joining the formal banking system, or for whom the financial products and services are inaccessible or unaffordable, do not consider it a priority in their daily life. Many people do not have knowledge regarding the importance of their money in the economy. They do not have bank accounts as they do not know how it would help them.
Lack of knowledge gives rise to fear, fear due to lack of information and knowledge such as some people do think that their money might get stolen from their accounts. They are afraid to trust banks with their money and hence prefer not having an account and remain unbanked.
People have low confidence due to hidden charges, as banks do not disclose the hidden charges to account holders upfront.
- Lack of Money-
Having little money or simply poverty is one of the reasons for people being unbanked, as they believe they do not need a bank account for such a small amount that they have.
Digital to the rescue
In India it all started with the introduction of Aadhaar, which was the first step towards empowering people. With a long term vision of providing unique identity, procuring and securing data of citizens, Aadhar was implemented. Later it became a tool to track the money and in order to keep check on the flow of money, GOI and RBI came up with Aadhar Payment Bridge, eKYC, DigiLocker, eSign and UPI.
Another step for banking the unbanked was to promote cashless and digital payments, which got quick adaptation due to the pandemic in 2020, resulting in rapid growth of online and digital financial systems from 2020.
What can Neo Banks do ?
For the growth of business and activities in rural areas, it is necessary to open banks and provide banking services in these areas, but due to constraints discussed it is a bit of a tough task and hence, Neo banks come into play. Neo banks act as a mid layer between consumers and banks, as banks can not reach all consumers, they can get help from Neo banks.
Essentially after demonetisation and digital revolution both government and private sector do agree on having alternative banking channels and format , focusing growth of rural and semi- urban India.
Neo banks can be useful in this regard as they facilitate
-Unified Payment Interface (UPI)
-Aadhar Pay and BHIM
-Debit cards and Credit cards (for online payment)
-Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)
-National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT)
-Immediate Payment Services (IMPS)
Neo banks can be vital tool to bank the unbanked due to its features of-
- Simple and Seamless process-
Be it setting up an account or doing a transaction both are simple and seamless on neo banks as it facilitates both with less paperwork, documentation and in a short period of time. Making it easy to understand, even by citizens who lack knowledge and education.
- User- friendly Interface-
Cleaner user interfaces and intuitive user experiences, such as regional language support and linkages with accounting and expenditure systems, are being offered by Neobanks, which makes it easy and attractive to use even for citizens with low knowledge and education.
- Convenience of time and location-
Neo banks can be accessed by anyone, anywhere and anytime, making it a good option to solve the issue of lack of infrastructure, distance and time. People can access and use the banking system using their mobile phone from the convenience of their home and their preferred time.
- Transparency and Insights-
Payment penalties, limited ATM withdrawals, and account balance charges have all been eliminated by Neobanks, that means no hidden charges and their customers now have more transparent pricing.
Most NeoBanks also offer dashboards and visualisation analysis, which provide useful analytics on accounting, payments, receivables, and other financial activities, allowing business owners and even common users to keep track of outstanding payments/receivables, pending invoices, spends analysis, and other financial activities.
- Combining financial and non- financial services-
The integration of financial and non-financial services into a mixed ecosystem benefits MSMEs. Several neobanks, for example, are giving digital solutions to MSMEs that allow them to engage with consumers and suppliers via digital platforms. These platforms give neobanks the ability to combine financial and non-financial services, such as purchase loans, pre-shipment loans, payment gateway services, Financial CRM and customer interaction.
6.Ease of adding beneficiaries-
Unlike the time taking and complicated process of adding beneficiaries in traditional banking, in neobanks beneficiaries is as easy as adding contact to phone directory. Simply add the contact details and the business is ready to have the transactions.
- Low Cost-
Neobanks have been proved to be more cost-effective than traditional banks. Users won’t have to worry about committing a lot of time or money to business banking because most transactions are done online, saving time and money.
- Resource efficiency-
Business operations are smooth, and business banking processes are simplified without the need for frequent intervention. Businesses may submit any number of contacts at once and make payouts in bulk, consumers can notice problems with sophisticated error-code mapping, and much more.
These features of Neo Banks address most of the factors of citizens being unbanked and hence, it can be said that Neo Banks have the power to “Bank the Unbanked” and work towards financial inclusion of rural India.
Reijiro Networks’ RJ Neo Bank is a neo bank aimed at bringing financial inclusion to the last mile of rural India. It is establishing a Neo Bank Platform in rural Bharat, with a network of banking and non-banking financial services kiosks. The RJ Neo Banking platform and the Reijiro Reseller Network will be used to deliver all banking services. It improves the efficacy, efficiency, and quality of all financial procedures, which improves the corporate banking experience.