What happened when women in rural India wanted to use payment apps
Speaking the same language is a business imperative if e-wallets want to make any kind of impact outside big cities.
Fortunately for some, we're already quite used to yielding to this tidal wave of technological marvels meant to make our lives simpler, happier and more efficient, particularly in 2017 AD (After Demonetisation). However, can you imagine what it must feel like for a person who recently held a smartphone for the very first time, an individual who has just about grasped Google Search?
A few months ago Brand Equity spoke with women in rural India who are part of Google and Tata Trust's 'Internet Saathi' program, a long-term initiative to promote digital literacy in the hinterland. It covers 300,000 villages, by employing women and training them to use the internet. In turn, Google's unlikeliest power-users teach others the Internet ropes. The women we spoke with were, by then, comfortable handling a smartphone and had mastered basics like Search and selfies. They shared with their desire to learn how to use payment apps; "mujhe Paytm sikhna hai", they told us. As it turned out this task was far more daunting.
When we caught up with them again, we made some interesting discoveries. For starters, once cash is back, Paytm is kind of out.
Parvati Khushwa, who lives in a city called Dholpur in Rajasthan (population - 126,142), has not used any of the payments apps yet as there's no shortage of cash now. However, people in her village often ask about mobile banking apps. That's why she's still keen to learn, so she can teach those interested. Just like Khushwa was before cash flow improved.
A millennial by age, Laxmi Rani of Patahensal in West Bengal has downloaded Paytm and SBI's Buddy but the apps are dormant. She is afraid she may do something wrong, losing money in the process. With cash on the other hand, naturally, one feels more in control and secure. Also, she's very confused as different people keep recommending different apps. If it's any consolation, she hasn't offloaded the apps she's downloaded thus far. Rani wants to learn and hopes to put the apps to good use, one day.
For their part, banks and the independent ewallet players are trying to these apps less intimidating. With wallets like SBI's Buddy, banks' pedigrees and extensive footprints help by providing a sense of accessibility, familiarity and security. Meanwhile ewallet players have introduced multilingual interface, some accommodating up to 11 languages including Gujarati, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
Speaking the same language is a business imperative if e-wallets want to make any kind of impact outside big cities. Breaking entry barriers, changing behaviours and making the use of e-wallets seem like child's play or at least not so threatening are the other major hurdles. One way to ease people in to this shift is through collaboration and tie-ups with programs like Internet Saathi, which has achieved a reasonable degree of success. MobiKwik did just that earlier this year. Meanwhile, after a recent fund raise of Rs 9000 crore from Japanese conglomerate Softbank, Paytm's parent One97 plans to invest Rs 10,000 crore over the next 3-5 years in bringing 500 million customers on board. A significant number will come from towns like Dholpur and Patahensal.
Which brings us to the big question; once women like Laxmi, no longer petrified of Pay-whatchamacallit, come on board, can the cash-rich ewallet-wallahs retain these new users when their offline wallets are again full of laxmi?