SBI has installed ‘Tiny Branch’, at its hilly region branch of Seiling in Mizoram. Earlier bank was finding difficulty in tapping customers in the naxal-hit Dantewada or the hilly region of Seiling in Mizoram, thus it was looking for a solution which is low-cost, safe and easy to operate. When Anurag Gupta, founder and director of the Zero Mass Foundation (ZMF) approached SBI with his idea of the ‘Tiny Branch’, the bank accepted it.
The Tiny Branch costs Rs 15,000 per installation and comprises of a mobile phone and a fingerprint scanner. A Nokia phone has been designed specially for ZMF to identify RFID tags; it also has an inbuilt application that helps in new account opening and to carry out other banking transactions.
The phone will be able to hold data of up to 50,000 customers for a period of five years. The phone will also take pictures of the customer for making the account card and records his name in his own voice as a voice tag, to be used later for verification purposes.
Along with written details, during enrolment, five fingers are scanned and the fingerprints recorded. The equipment can record details in 11 languages including Arabic.
Once bank completes it procedure in all villages, ZMF will step in, looking for help from the village elders or the Panchayat to appoint Customer Service Points (CSPs). CSPs equipped with mobile phone and fingerprint scanner, will be responsible for acquiring customers and also undertake banking transactions in the village.
Gupta explained, “We mostly recruit women, preferably with matriculate level of education.” There are 24,000 CSPs that the assist ZMF to carry out the bank’s business out of which 98% are women. It is essential that local branch should be near for the Tiny Branch to deliver cash, form submissions/collections and issuing of new account cards.
The devices work on a battery that can be charged using a solar panel so there is no problem in the installation of the devices. Similarly there is no need of internet connectivity for enrolling customers or carrying out transactions. However, transactions have to be backed up on an hourly basis through GPRS. Sometimes there can be connectivity problem?
“CSPs sometimes tie the mobile phone to a bamboo stick and hoist it on top of their house to transmit data,” says Gupta about the ingenious ways used in difficult conditions.
Gupta has been always innovative, from being an architect to creating smart systems like mchek — a mobile payment platform to the GO Mumbai smart card. He said, “The Tiny Branch is one of our most important creations and I had to let go of others in order to concentrate on this.”
Although Rs 15,000 might be low-cost, Gupta is far from being satisfied. He has brought down the cost of the system, he also hopes to install 250,000 of these Tiny Branch’s across Indian villages.