Vikram Akula, founder and former chairperson of SKS Microfinance, has been appointed chairman of financial inclusion start-up Vaya Finserv Private Limited. Akula will also take a 26 per cent stake in Vaya for an undisclosed amount.
Vaya is a business correspondent (BC), which facilitates savings and loans for self-help groups of women on behalf of banks.
The company was founded by former SKS executives and opened its first branch in July. It has 23 branches with 183 employees across six districts of eastern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka. It has so far disbursed loans of Rs 7.5 crore.
“Now that my three-year non-compete period is over, I was looking to get back to financial inclusion,” said Akula.
“I chose to join Vaya because it is focused on under-banked districts, it has a great team, and it uses a next-generation technology platform that will become the future of financial inclusion.”
Akula told Business Standard the deal was expected to be closed in a week and he intended to play a non-executive role in the BC confining his involvement to strategic aspects.
According to Akula, Vaya is intending to apply for a bank licence by January 16. “I think both the creation of small banks and payments banks is an extremely progressive step on the part of the Reserve Bank of India, and this will certainly help enhance financial inclusion. We are working with our advisors on preparing a small bank licence application,” he said.
Akula said while Vaya has a robust plan to grow as a BC, a small bank licence would assist it in furthering financial inclusion by providing loans to small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and other unorganised sector entities. “We also have an option to apply for a payments bank licence,” he added.
Vaya is stated to be the first BC to use tablet banking in the field. The field officers use tablets to connect to a centralised online system that has the ability to interface seamlessly with core banking systems, to ensure daily cash settlement with partner banks.
“We have the advantage of not having any legacy systems, so we could design a bank compliant process and system framework right from the outset,” said Surya Kumar, managing director of Vaya. Kumar used to serve as the head of technology at SKS.
As soon as the regulator permits inter-operability for mobile payments, Kumar said, Vaya would be able to offer its customers the convenience of a mobile banking platform, similar to what was in place in countries like Kenya and the Philippines.
In terms of strategy, Vaya is focused on under-banked areas. “We rely on RBI data on under-banked districts and our expansion strategy is to fill those gaps,” said Kumar.
Aside from Akula, other investors in Vaya include individual high-net investors, the SKS Trusts and Vaya employees.