The financial inclusion jigsaw. Missing pieces?

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Banks sabotaging PM’s Jan Dhan dream
6 September 2016, New Delhi, Moutussi Acharya

Many banks are quietly undercutting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Jan Dhan plans by turning away or harassing applicants.

Having worked for a good part of a decade at the front lines of providing financial services access to those who need, there are a few things that continue to bother me. There is no doubt that PM Jan Dhan was an ambitious move with a great achievement record and unprecedented momentum. Something seems missing and these are my thoughts:


1. If the banks alone could, they would’ve achieved inclusion decades ago. There would have been no need for PMJDY. This is simply not in their DNA and cannot be fixed cosmetically. (Unlike say the telcos, in their business)

2. Impetus apart, diktat can take you only so far. Financial inclusion for a country as diverse and vast as india needs to be an ecosystem play. Needs multiple experiments. Needs multiple failures and a few wins. PMJDY needs to accommodate these through a viable business case, deficit funding and an ecosystem buy-in. Fix the economics, excite the participants and the rest should follow.

3. Policy and implementation needs to catch up with and be based on customer needs not vice-versa. Fit the product for the customer rather than trying to fit the customer on a product. Needs a lot of insight, thought and design and empathy. One line rules from the sky such as “maximum balance shall not exceed X” need to make way for better and more flexible definitions. Why should X be 50000 and not 56,000 or 48,900?

I’m sure there are many more factors but I hope to leave this post with just a sense of what seems missing. In one word, what is missing is empathy.

Hat-tip to all individuals and organizations still working to solve the last mile challenges in this sector and trying to make a viable and customer-centric business out of it. You are the missing pieces in this puzzle.

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