Banking and fintech startup Mahagram on the road to digitizing rural India
Mahagram aims to potentially enable every Indian to seamlessly benefit from financial inclusion, government programs and wider access to basic goods and services. They leverage their extensive network of retail access points to provide real-time BFSI services, government-to-citizen services, and business-to-consumer services to unserved rural, semi-urban, and urban markets. They aim to be the most trusted consumer service point for rural India, making solutions even simpler and more sustainable and offering even more reliable and affordable products and services. Mr. Ram Shriram, CEO, Mahagram in discussion with CXOToday shares his ideas on the same subject.
Q1. What is the main concept behind the launch of Mahagram? Could you please tell me Mahagram’s business model? How does Mahagram benefit people in rural areas?
Rep. Mahagram is a recognized technology-driven FinTech company. It is focused on building India’s largest network of last mile retail outlets.
Over the years, Mahagram has carved out a place for itself in the market and is known as a technology-driven company that focuses on innovative banking and finance technologies to help digitize villages. By partnering with banks and financial institutions, Mahagram provides solutions to solve basic banking services and government schemes through their established chain of over 7 lakh outlets. The idea is to help poor and needy people with financial, government and banking services through neighborhood stores owned and operated by residents.
The platform helps government, banks and local government agencies to implement their citizen-centric projects in rural India. It offers Aadhar-enabled payment services that work like an ATM used for cash withdrawal in places where there are no banks within reach. Additionally, in Mahagram, they have domestic money transfer options that help out-of-state workers send money to their families on an immediate basis.
Mahagram currently services nearly 15,000 PINs and provides basic banking, e-governance and other BFSI services through the distribution network of approximately 12,000 distributors and 7 lakh+ retail partners. The company has expanded into 17 states with a strong presence in the Western, Northern and Northeastern states. The mission of the Mahagram team is to create the largest distribution network of 4,000 RBC outlets that reach more than 30 million rural and urban poor by providing world-class technology and reaching the customer of the last kilometer.
BharatATM by Mahagram is a financial platform that helps kiranas and neighborhood retail stores to offer banking services to customers. Under the BharatATM brand, we have strived to drive universal inclusion through the brand’s “BankSakhi” initiative, which aims to “financially empower women”. The initiative has taken a big head start and has helped 11,230 women earn an average of Rs 8K/month. We are in the process of amplifying our means to reach more and more beneficiaries of the initiative in driving social change that means “women’s empowerment in its truest form”.
- BharatATM has created jobs for over 2,000 rural citizens
- We have onboarded over 11,000 women as Bank Sakhis and given them decently paid professions.
- Financial awareness of more than one million rural consumers
- Helped over 2 million customers provide cash on demand during the pandemic
Q2. How did you develop the technology?
Rep. When, together with the Mahagram team, I identified a problem and a logical solution, the next step was to convert the solution into the most modern and user-friendly state-of-the-art interactive technology to reinforce to both our network and service delivery. Of course, it goes without saying that there were so many technology platforms available to develop our application. But after extensive study and deep technology research, we finally identified a NET platform with core java to develop a technologically superior fintech application based on a 4-level security layer, we are proud of the fact that today today our application is considered the best referenced application in the fintech space.
Q3. The financial inclusion of women, especially in rural settings, has been a national agenda; what are the initiatives taken by Mahagram to translate the agenda?
Rep. While FinTechs play a major role in scripting India’s growth story and bringing much-needed financial inclusion across the country, they also play an important role in empowering women. To empower women in rural areas, micro-ATM fintech organizations like Mahagram collaborate with different women-centric programs like “Bank Sakhi”. Rural women are trained by Fintech institutions and serve as micro-automatons to facilitate the lives of rural people in the era of the pandemic.
Mahagram has signed a partnership with IndusInd Bank, a next-generation Indian bank to digitize the country’s payment ecosystem and provide a broader horizon to conduct transactions, especially for its customers in rural India. The partnership between the two aims to boost financial inclusion, encourage socio-economic development, mitigate the risks of an underground economy and accelerate the growth of a cashless society. This association will also ensure the construction of an efficient, reliable and secure payment ecosystem, which will not only promote and encourage the use of electronic payment methods, but will also help merchants across the country to easily accept digital payments, by making them more accessible. for everyone. Mahagram’s goal will be to add 15 million small merchants to the UPI QR this fiscal year. Going forward, our vision is to expand into other industries as we strive to advance the comprehensive payment ecosystem and achieve financial inclusion in India.
Mahagram recently partnered with Bank of Maharashtra to roll out the “Bank Sakhi” project in the state of Odisha to provide financial technology and infrastructure support to the project. As part of this merger, the company has onboarded more than 11,230 sakhis (women) bankers on the BharatATM platform to help rural citizens access basic banking services at their doorsteps or at nearby Kirana stores, thereby promoting the rural financial inclusion.
Under these programs, women from the Sakhi Mandals are trained as correspondent agents of Bank Sakhis, Bank & Micro-ATM. These women offer banking services like cash deposit and withdrawal, money transfers, loans, etc. home. These women are trained to bring banking services to remote areas of the state. With the help of micro ATMs, these women are increasing financial inclusion and delivering government programs while earning a living. While Bank Sakhi’s model is an innovative strategy to achieve financial inclusion, it was women banking agents who were poised to deepen the provision of last mile financial services, especially for female customers, in hard-to-reach rural areas.
Q4. How do you generate income?
Rep. Every transaction agent performing on the eGram Kendra platform is tied to an incentive paid by the government or banks. The maximum revenue comes from transaction fees that we charge the issuing bank (customer’s bank) or customers as a convenience fee. RBI & NPCI have set a standard transaction interchange fee in AEPS (an interoperable transaction model based on aadhaar) which is 0.50% and a maximum of Rs.15 which is to be paid by the issuing bank to acquire a bank shared or paid to Mahagram and retailer.
Q5. What states have you covered?
Rep. Mahagram is present in over 17 states of India. Mainly covered Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Punjab and other North Eastern states.
Q6. What is the growth path for Mahagram?
Rep. Our goal is to make Mahagram a brand synonymous with India’s largest network of last mile retail outlets for basic banking needs. The mission of the Mahagram team is to create the largest distribution network of 4,000,000 RBC outlets providing access to over 30 million rural and urban poor by providing world-class technology, reaching the last mile customer.