Mobile banking for rural poor

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New Delhi, Jun 22: India's rural poor-- forgotten by the traditional banking system-- will now be able to have access to microfinance through mobiles. PlaNet Finance, an international institution that aims at alleviating poverty through the development of the microfinance sector, is tying up with telecom companies in the country to reach remote populations who are on the margins of the banking system.

Its Indian arm held talks with the telecom companies recently to start mobile banking service for the rural poor. ''We want to use mobile banking in India as a means of providing microfinance to the poor and those living in isolated areas.... It has huge potential,'' PlaNet Finance founder president Jacques Attali told the sources. According to Company's South Asia Coordinator Delphine Thizy, the project would be launched by this year-end.

Mr Attali said they had already launched mobile banking in Kenya and Senegal. The mobile phone, Ms Thizy said, could even replace credit cards and bring a new revolution in the countryside.

They were here to participate in the meeting of PlaNet Finance India to review the company's relationship with India, and chalk out a strategy for the coming years.

The organisation provides access to financial services to the poorest population and financial intermediaries, including banks, cooperative, NGOs and microfinance institutions.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India has prepared a draft operating guidelines for mobile payments.

Mobile phone owners will thus be allowed to transfer funds from their accounts to other mobile phone owners across networks and service providers.

According to the draft, SMS can be used for small-ticket payments up to Rs 1,500, thus making it possible for even the most basic mobile phone to be used for m-banking.

PlaNet Finance wants to use the mobile phone as a weapon to fight poverty.


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