In a first of its kind survey, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has released a study analyzing the level of financial inclusion currently in India relative to other nations. The results are unimpressive. The paper
ranks India at 29 in a list of 55 countries based on the country’s performance in banking penetration, availability of the banking services, and the usage of the banking system. India’s ranking goes down to 50 (out of 100 countries) if one removes the banking penetration as one of the determinants from the Index. This shows that even though there is a higher banking penetration, there are inefficiencies in making these services available to the financially excluded population. [Source: VC Circle]
We have written to this issue before. Particularly, I interviewed Gautum Ivatury of CGAP, and their efforts in addressing financial inclusion via mobile banking. This study is interesting because it highlights how building a bank is only part of the process. The drop in rankings when controlled for banking penetration emphasizes this need.
Due to this interesting dynamic, there is a definite need for innovative and unconventional methods to reach these otherwise excluded communities. Technological approaches like kiosks and mobile phones are one angle, but I also have an inkling that much of it stems from being uninformed or even skeptical of modern institutions.