In India, over 80 percent of the population has a bank account — an impressive feat given the country’s huge size and geographic diversity. Driven by high rates of digital adoption and near-universal coverage of Aadhaar, India’s national biometric digital identity program, India is rapidly extending financial services to the previously underserved. As of August 2020, around 400 million bank accounts were opened through the government’s flagship financial inclusion program — 64 percent of which were held by rural Indians.

While that is great progress, access to financial services for low-income individuals is largely restricted to basic bank accounts and remittance services. With over 65 percent of India’s 1.37 billion people living in rural areas, wealth creation and management tools, unfortunately, haven’t reached the masses at the outskirts. Relevant and appropriate wealth management solutions ensure that rural households have access to a full suite of financial services normally reserved for affluent clients and benefit from tailored guidance that empowers consumers to manage their finances better. Given that only 28 percent of rural India has access to internet-enabled smartphones and many people have low levels of digital literacy, providing appropriate financial services through both in-person and digital channels is key to reaching the underserved in rural India.

Kasthuri, a client of Dvara in India

In a small village in Tamil Nadu, Kasthuri looks after her two-year-old daughter and runs her own tailoring business. Her husband works overseas as a salesperson so he can earn more money to provide for their family. The pandemic caused severe financial difficulties for the family — her husband was unable to send money home, and her tailoring unit’s business suffered during India’s strict lockdown restrictions. Kasthuri started working with Dvara KGFS, a financial provider serving rural communities in India, to build her business and turned to their team for support during this difficult period. A Dvara KGFS wealth manager recommended the Dvara’s “Digital Gold” micro-savings plan to Kasthuri, which allows her to save in small, flexible installments based on her cash availability. This product enables Kasthuri to deposit and redeem her savings in either cash or gold. Kasthuri realized the importance of saving to create a financial safety net and now saves regularly to secure a safe future for her and her family.

Dvara KGFS helps to build the financial health of low-income populations by providing complete access to financial services for individuals and small businesses in remote rural India. Founded in 2008 as a non-banking financial institution, Dvara aims to support their rural customers’ wealth creation and financial wellbeing by using a combination of traditional physical branches and digital banking to bring credit, savings, and insurance to rural communities in India. With 294 branches across 51 districts in six Indian states, Dvara reaches over 1.16 million customers.

Accion has a long-standing relationship with Dvara KGFS as an investor. Now, as part of the Mastercard and Accion partnership to help small businesses operate in and benefit from the digital economy, Accion is supporting Dvara in its efforts to leverage technology to unlock efficiency and create optimal customer experiences. Because over 45 percent of Dvara’s customer base has access to a smartphone, Dvara is pursuing a hybrid approach that combines both tech and touch components to reach more financially excluded rural customers on both sides of the digital divide.

We are very excited about the Accion/Mastercard project, which will help to enhance the omnichannel experience for our customers. With the addition of new digital channels to our existent branch channel, we hope to offer them a lot of transaction convenience. A new payment platform, KGFS Pay, will power the merchant’s payments acceptance through digital means and empower many more rural households to benefit from the digital payment ecosystem.

Joby CO, CEO Dvara KGFS

Over the next two years, Accion will work closely with Dvara to increase customer outreach and engagement to deliver customized and relevant financial products to low-income households and microbusinesses across rural India. Through this partnership, Accion will help Dvara:

With the support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Accion, Dvara KGFS is building on the organization’s wealth management approach that prioritizes the financial wellbeing of their rural clients through tailored financial advice. By placing customer experience at the center of their digitally integrated payments ecosystem, Dvara promotes resilience among those who need it most.

Malavika Krishnan contributed to this article.

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