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FINO: Doorstep banking for the poor

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

(FINO), based in the financial capital of India, is an and delivery channel, enabling sourcing and servicing micro customers on a large scale.

Manish KheraIt operates through a network of 20,000 field force — also called Bandhu (friend in Hindi). This field force serves as a doorstep bank and electronic teller machines in areas where banks are yet to reach or have any ATM. FINO works with 24 banks, several of the state government bodies and insurance firms like LIC, ICICI Prudential and ICICI Lombard. Each of the bandhus is equipped with handheld biometric devices that have GPRS connectivity. Every time a customer is enrolled, she is provided with a smart card. For any future banking activity like depositing, checking balance or withdrawals, they are done through the system.

The data is automatically updated to the systems. In case a connection does not work, the handheld can store transactions, which are then updated to the system by visiting the nearest branch of that bank. So far FINO has enrolled 36 million customers and plans to double this base in the next few years. It has presence in 26 states and 386 districts.

“Technology is playing and will continue to play a vital role in taking banking products and services to the customers at the base of the pyramid. We have developed the entire technology in-house which is having a meaningful impact on the lives of people. Out of India’s estimated 60 million below-poverty-line people, our technology solutions already reach out to over 30 million. We are proud to be a part of the Technology Pioneers. It is a true recognition of the efforts of our team and I would like to express gratitude to our technology team for this award-winning effort,” says Manish Khera, chief executive officer, FINO.

FINO also partners with government agencies. For instance, it is part of payment disbursement for National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. It is also working with the Uttar Pradesh government for payments made to tendu patta collectors.

The company is also foraying into mobile payment segment. The services called m-Rupya will soon be tested on a pilot basis with 20,000 customers. This service will be launched by the end of the next quarter. The company has developed the software platform for its mobile payment service through its in-house research and development team. The company plans to offer this service to its 36 million customers in India. At a time when the micro-finance industry has been shrouded in controversy, FINO has been successful in showing an alternative mode of achieving financial inclusion. FINO was formed by ICICI Bank. The idea was to create a technology firm that could provide solution catering to the financial inclusion space. However, Manish Khera, the CEO, and his team realised there was opportunity to become business correspondents. This also received a boost when the Reserve Bank of India allowed business correspondents to work as agents of banks.

Since its inception in 2006, FINO has managed to attract big investors. Some of these include, Intel Capital, International Finance Corporation, some of the Indian public sector banks, LIC and more recently Blackstone Private Equity.

Manish Khera
CEO, Financial Inclusion Network & Operations (FINO)

First Published: Fri, September 02 2011. 00:40 IST