As Startups JAM for Financial Inclusion!
When we think or hear the word startups, the typical image evoked is one of hot cool technologies, crazy valuations, silicon valley, young talent, and high growth. When we talk of big MNC banks with global operations, we think scale, regulations, big money, big corporates and smart savvy urban consumers with lot of buying power. When we say Government, we think bureaucracy, rules, power, protocol, and taxes.
None of these words have a default association with “financial inclusion”- to include those at the bottom of pyramid in the financial ecosystem of loans, banks, credit cards, and access to capital for their small and big needs.
So it was with great interest that I watched the presentations at the Bangalore demo day of Citi Mobile Challenge Asia a few days back.
20 startups, selected from about 1300 entries from India, demonstrated their solutions to a panel of judges to vie for the select prizes. CMC is a series of contests Citi has been running in different geographies since last year to encourage external innovation and play its role in the global FINTECH ecosystem.
Arvind Gupta, one of the key note speakers, and founder of Digital India Foundation talked about the power of JAM (Jandhan accounts, Aadhar cards, and Mobile) as very soon over a billion consumers with bank accounts (Jandhan), citizen identity cards (Aadhar), and mobile phones, will present unparalleled opportunities for growth in all respects – of individual economic conditions, of national GDP, and of industries.
9 of the 20 startups who presented their solutions had solutions for financial inclusions for those whose needs are not met by current model of financial system. The solutions ranged from a platform for farmers with no access to credit, to Micro ATMs and Automated cash dispensers for rural remote areas, to solutions which enable digitized payment collections for small merchants like newspaper vendors or milk vendors.
The creativity and energy behind all the innovations was impressive to say the least. It was interesting to see all the senior executives from established organizations keenly listening and appreciating the innovation and creativity in the room as each solution was presented.
TK Kurien -CEO of Wipro Technologies, in his keynote, lauded the effectiveness of leveraging innovation from external community of smaller, nimbler players for larger established corporates to help them reinvent themselves in the new world.
There were other solutions solving other interesting problems like blockchain, healthcare, IoT as well, but my personal takeaway was the high mindshare enjoyed by the solutions related to financial inclusion.
A very heartening indicator of the possibilities which lie ahead!