Walking the Last Mile

Walking the Last Mile

The term financial inclusion often hits the headlines of many news dailies reiterating the emphasis the Government of India is placing on inclusive growth and rural empowerment. In fact, in the February 2011 Budget speech, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that for fiscal 2011-12, 73,000 villages with a population of more than 2,000 people will be given banking facilities, way above the 29,000 villages that the banks covered in the 2010-11 fiscal to achieve the goal of inclusive growth. Agreeing with the focus on rural empowerment, Prakash Prabhu, chief-executive officer, Atyati Technologies (Atyati), says, “There is an increase in the government’s focus on inclusion through public sector banks, regional rural banks and post offices. There is a drive to automate the last mile supply chain, dairy and agricultural commodities and eliminate middlemen by enabling payment through bank accounts. This apart, the awareness of insurance for crops, livestock and life insurance in the rural market is on the rise.”  Evidently, the growth potential that this throws open for many players, especially those involved in financial inclusion space, is immense.

Operating in such a space Bengaluru-based Atyati Technologies aims to reach the unreached. The philosophy of the organisation is to ensure total inclusion, financial inclusion being a part of it. “Our mission is to build a technology platform which will touch the day-to-day life of a rural person and automate  all the players involved in this ecosystem who want to provide a product or service to them, thereby enabling true inclusion,” says Prabhu.

“There is an increase in the government’s focus on inclusion through public sector banks, regional rural banks and post offices. There is a drive to automate the last mile supply chain, dairy and agricultural commodities and eliminate middlemen by enabling payment through bank accounts”

Atyati was incorporated in March 2006 to develop solutions for financial inclusion (savings, deposits, loans and insurance), government programs (pension, employment schemes, UID), microfinance institutions (MFI), and agricultural supply chain. Founded by a team from Oracle Financial Services (formerly I-Flex Solutions), Atyati targets rural outreach and financial inclusion markets and addresses a sector which has a market size of US $ 500 million.  It is currently operational in more than 4,000 villages in nine states and has reached over one million beneficiaries.

In the next one year, Atyati plans to enter the education and healthcare market, which has a market size of US $ 100 million. It is currently in need of US $ 7.5 million which it plans to utilise towards servicing existing clients, servicing potential customers and enhancing its product platform. The company raised equity finance to the tune of US $ 4 million from venture capital firm, Ventureast, in August 2008 which was used towards product development and servicing clients.

The modus operandi

Atyati, through its  integrated view of different consumer needs like government wages, banking, agri-dairy trading and MFI credit, focuses on banking, insurance needs and extends the channel to enable rural growth.  “The actual product, like savings bank account, fixed deposits or loan and insurance products, is from the bank that uses our software solution. Taking these products to the rural market and processing the transactions is done by us through our tie up with the local agents,” says Prabhu. The company leverages partnership for last mile reach by involving local agents and banking coordinators (BC) and increases utilisation of distribution channels to lower overall cost of service delivery.

Snap Shot

Atyati Technologies
Location: Bengaluru
Founder and CEO: Prakash Prabhu
Key Drivers:
Playing a key role in enabling inclusive growth
Partnerships and ability to work with banking coordinators and local agents
Currently reach one million beneficiaries in rural India

The company’s customers are from the public sector and private sector banks that it acquired directly or through tenders. It shares the revenues and risk with the BCs and local agents where the BCs invest in devices, manpower and insurance. It earns its revenues through a combination of fixed fee (initial client enrolment phase) and recurring revenues (linked to transaction volume).

“The main differentiator in this business is to provide viable technology and get into right partnerships that will facilitate the last mile reach,” says Prabhu. To deliver the last mile services, Atyati has partnered with local non-governmental organisations that have a grassroot level connect with a mission to provide livelihood and social upliftment for the underprivileged.

The enabler

Ganaseva,  a comprehensive end-to-end mobility based multi-application platform, supports and enables the flow of products and services from financial institutions, government agencies and commercial enterprises to citizens in remote rural geographies. It provides a common infrastructure for data collection and information management. It is a single platform for multiple services (banking, insurance, supply chain) thereby ensuring profitability and sustainability of each player (BCs, Atyati and the bank). An end-to-end processing platform for small to mid-size organisations, the product is built for operations in rural conditions and supports different business models.

Rural power

The rural market is a virgin territory, totally untouched by software and systems. And current infrastructure development, especially power and communication, is not sufficient for ICT enablement. “It was a challenge to create a product for this kind of market as there was no specific kind of customer and a need to cater to. We had to conceptualise it with great care,” shares Prabhu. There is also a high degree of diversity in the rural market based on its proximity to cities or the economic conditions. “To understand this, we met as many prospective customers as possible,” says Prabhu. Standard enterprise applications were worked on to fit the market.

The target users are unaware of computers and information technology. Most of the population is illiterate and even the educated users would be conversant only in the local language. The deployment environment is unlike the data centres and dust free, air-conditioned office atmosphere. And while designing the solutions, Atyati had to ensure that the technology is user-friendly with the local language enabled, has rugged hardware, integrates various benefits, enables government and policy related changes and has features to prevent fraud.

That said, the focus that this sector is receiving is immense and companies just need to work around the challenges that it throws up. The country aims to attain inclusive growth and Atyati, with its multi-application platform Ganaseva and network of local agents and BCs is well positioned to capitalise on this growth.

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