Bharti Airtel has partnered with Axis Bank to use combined forces of telecom and banking to offer financial inclusion (FI) to thousands of Indians who still don’t have any access to banking. Called Airtel Money Super Account powered by Axis Bank, the mobile platform will be powered by Airtel MCommerce Services Limited, a fully owned subsidiary of Airtel. Banking products and services will be brought forth by Axis Bank. Infosys has been roped in as the technology innovation partner to lend its expertise in mobile and e-commerce to successfully deliver this initiative.
Sanjay Kapoor, the CEO of Bharti Airtel for India & South Asia said "….nearly 43% of our country’s population does not have bank accounts and continues to rely on cash for majority of transactions as well as payments". This could be either because they have no access to banking or that they choose to rely on cash out of habit and mindset. In such a scenario, the aim of FI is to offer banking products and services to the under-banked and low income population of urban and rural areas of a country.
Airtel Money Super Account powered by Axis Bank allows customers of Airtel Money to open a No Frills Savings Account through which they will be able to carry out a variety of banking transactions. Airtel Money, launched in February 2012, is basically an account on a mobile phone through which cash can be deposited. This balance can later be used to pay for various products and services such as balance recharges, Digital TV bills, movie tickets, e-shopping, etc.
No Frills Account is essentially a simple Savings Account without the requirement of any fixed minimum balance. It caters to users who don’t need to use many cheques or make frequent withdrawals/deposits. No Frills Accounts were introduced by banks in India as per RBI directives in order to further aid the FI objective and policy of the nation.
The service will be first activated in India’s top remittance corridors like Delhi, Mumbai, Bihar and East Uttar Pradesh. For the time being, users will be allowed to send remittances from Delhi and Mumbai, and receive in Bihar and UP.
Airtel Money Super Accounts promise to be a boon in many ways. Customers can make cash deposits, receive remittances, transfer and withdraw money anytime. These transactions can be done from authorized Airtel Money-Axis Bank outlets.
The hassle of handling cash will be reduced by making banking transactions more secure, convenient and efficient. Customers will be also able to earn interest on their No Frills Savings Account.
There are many other services that Bharti Airtel and Axis Bank have in the pipeline for their customers. These include transferring funds to another bank account through NEFT and access other banking services like RDs, FDs and micro-insurance products.
To open a Super Account, customers can visit the nearest Airtel Money-Axis Bank outlet and fill out an application form. Know Your Customer (KYC) identification documents will be required.
There is little doubt that this alliance is a winning combination of Airtel’s vast reach and Axis Bank’s goodwill. Airtel has about 15 lakh outlets in India while Axis bank is a strong player in the banking sector. Add to this equation, the expertise of IT giant Infosys, the Super Account has everything working in its favour.
However the big question is whether this initiative will actually trickle down and percolate to the target audience.
It would only fair to assume that folks who prefer dealing in cash for tax reasons will continue preferring cash as these transactions are likely to be logged. So the cash loving Indian may not necessarily prefer transferring cash via a medium that will leave a trail.
However the obvious upside to the initiative is the fact that it will allow banking services to percolate down to the roots of the Indian population. As Airtel and Axis Bank add more services and expand the Super Accounts footprint, the currently unbanked population could very well be queuing up to sign up.