As fintechs are playing a major role in scripting India’s growth story, bringing the needed financial inclusion across the country, they are also playing an important role in empowering women.
To empower the women of the rural areas, the fintech micro-ATM organizations are collaborating with the different women-centric programs like ‘Bank Sakhi.’ The rural women are trained by the Fintech institutions and serve as micro-ATMs to ease the lives of the rural people during the pandemic era.
Under these schemes, women from the Sakhi Mandals are being trained as Bank Sakhis, Bank correspondent agents, and Micro ATM merchants. These women deliver banking services like account opening, cash deposit and withdrawal, money transfer, loan, etc. at the doorstep. These women are trained to take banking services to remote areas of the state.
With help from micro-ATMs, these women are increasing financial inclusion and delivering government schemes while earning a living. By February 2020, 6,094 Bank Sakhis across 12 states had collectively completed 748,454 transactions worth Rs 26,635 lakh (approximately $40 Million). While the Bank Sakhi model is an innovative strategy to achieve financial inclusion, it was women banking agents who were poised to deepen the last-mile delivery of financial services, especially for women customers, in hard-to-reach rural areas.
Micro-ATMs have been a precession for the financial inclusion of the underbanked areas of the country, The need for micro-ATM entrance in all towns is to cater their financial services to the high-cash economy of rural India. This reflects in the cash withdrawals from Micro ATMs, which amounted to Rs 26,830 crores in August 2021, compared to Rs 19,513 crores a year ago.
Apart from being low budget and easy to operate, Micro ATMs are also a source of additional income for rural merchants, especially women. Every transaction additionally creates a commission for the self-help group ladies, who get a monthly commission for their services rendered. Such drives enable the remote local area to access money, assist them with buying and producing goods, and create extra income for themselves.
Rural account holders are now getting more and more contented with the financial services rendered by their neighborhood bank agents, and therefore the native Kirana look that lower right down to micro-ATM points.
Small ATM, apart from being low budget to line up and simple to operate, provides an additional financial gain to the merchants. Many banks and Fintech corporations are onboarding the native Kiranas, chemists, grocery stores, etc additionally to their local bank or Fintech agents.
As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, in 2020 November, 68.4 million withdrawals worth Rs 18,820 crore were processed through AePS against 39 million withdrawals worth Rs 9,778 crore in the same period in the year 2019.
Empowering women is an important component of India’s socio-economic growth. The government and many other agencies are taking steps to further improve the situation through various policies aimed at social reform and job creation. “One of the important factors that would lead to the empowerment of women in India is their financial independence. Women must be economically empowered. This will empower women and give them the freedom to choose. This will allow them to freely benefit from the different options available to them. It will make women’s life fulfilling and joyful.
Once a woman becomes financially independent and can exercise her choices, she can also help her mother, sister, daughter and other women in society gain power. This will elevate the position of women in society and lead to equality.
According to World Bank’s Empowering women through the financial report “women are more likely to save, allocate, and invest money to be protected against unexpected expenses, and in their children’s education, allowing a better livelihood to the next generation”
(Ram Shriram is CEO, Mahagram-rural fintech company. Views are personal.)