Saturday, April 11, 2009

Disruptive innovations in payments - BoP style

In emerging markets, often the growth opportunity in the payments industry lies in addressing the un-banked. While addressing opportunities at the bottom-of-the-pyramid is challenging, financial inclusion empowers the un-banked to be both producers and consumers, thereby unlocking a viable business opportunity.

While looking at payments opportunities in India, addressing the unbanked / under-served forces its way into any brainstorming session. This could be because of innovations around branchless banking, novel methods of handling KYC mandates, reducing documentation/paperwork associated with opening a new bank account, zero-cost bank accounts, leveraging technology without being encumbered by legacy… When you are trying to create a profitable business from millions of customers who earn less than $100/month, you think thru’ the problem in a very different way. Resulting in a raft of innovations can be truly disruptive. CGAP has been successfully promoting this cause for a while now. I've enjoyed participating in the CGAP group on LinkedIn as well.

It is in this context that I ran into Sanjay Bhargava, who has been championing Universal Financial Access. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm into a daunting initiative, and makes it seem achievable. His attitude is so infectious, that I figured a lot more space needs to be devoted to the Universal Financial Access project (subject of another blog).

Is BoP a lost cause? Is Universal Financial Access an oxymoron? What are your thoughts?

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