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Expanding its footprint across the length and breadth of the country, micro-finance lender Bharat Financial Inclusion will bring around 2 lakh kirana stores to cater as service points with digital imprint. The expansion is to be done with the help of banks in a tie-up arrangement in 16 states. With the introduction of 'Kirana Points', Bharat Financial Inclusion's (formerly known as SKS Microfinance Limited) borrowers can now walk into the nearest kirana/merchant store to make basic financial transactions like repaying loan, depositing money, withdrawing cash, making bill and other payments, a company statement said. "Kirana Points will eliminate, for rural borrowers, the past insurmountable obstacles like PINs, and usher in the most convenient cash-in, cash-out points featuring biometric authentication and friendly neighbourhood guide," Bharat Financial Inclusion MD and CEO M R Rao. He said the company is first in India to launch 100 per cent digital financial inclusion on such a scale. The micro-lender said it is ready to ramp up the service after seeing an increasing acceptance among borrowers in a pilot project at Karnataka's Humnabad. Also, these Kirana Points will serve as distribution and service centres for products financed by Bharat Financial Inclusion. It will help in pursuing growth opportunities benefiting all key stakeholders in a rapidly changing financial inclusion environment, the company said. Bharat Financial, claimed it has the lowest lending rate of 19.75 per cent among private sector micro finance lenders, has 5 lakh borrowers operating kirana/ small merchant stores. The micro lender plans to convert 2 lakh of these into Kirana Points. Bharat Financial to make 2 lakh kirana stores as service sites. "The technology initiatives will result in 40 per cent improvement in overall efficiency," said Ritesh Chatterjee, Chief-Operational Excellence. This will also provide the clients an access to banking services - as in rural ATM, utility payments and e-retail system, all within 500 meters of the borrower's house, it said further.
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