David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

Remote E-Banking in India

Villagers gain access through biometric verification and cell-phones.

  • August 12, 2008

Kasaghatta, India: It’s a 90-minute walk from this southern Indian village–one of 730,000 in India–to Doddabenavengala, the nearest town with a bank branch. Until a few months ago, Karehanumaiah, a 55-year-old agricultural laborer, had no bank account, which also meant he had no access to formal credit. (He would have to pay 10 percent monthly interest to informal lenders to, say, borrow $45 to buy a goat.) But that all changed in recent months.

In this video, Karehanumaiah uses a desktop terminal to deposit 150 rupees (about $3.50) into his new account at Corporation Bank, with help from Muniyamma Ramanjanappa, a village resident who conducts these transactions in her concrete house as a bank representative. First, a smart card and a thumbprint scan prove his identity. Next, Ramanjanappa updates the bank balance information on his smart card by connecting the terminal to the bank database with a cell phone. Finally, Karehanumaiah hands Ramanjanappa the cash and gets a receipt for his deposit (which brings his balance up to 160 rupees). To their left is Ram Sirupurapu, executive director of Integra Microsystems, the maker of the terminal. Ramanjanappa makes weekly trips to the Doddabenavengala branch with the cash. And now that Karehanumaiah has a bank account, he can borrow money from the bank at rates of between 8.5 and 13 percent annually–far less than in the informal system–and gain a toehold into the formal economy.

Ninety percent of India’s rural residents lack bank accounts, and a variety of technologies are being applied to the problem. Other efforts include using cell phones to make payments and execute bank transactions in a nation that is enrolling a staggering eight million new cell-phone accounts monthly, many of them in rural areas.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.