The COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the economy and people’s lives. The lockdown has restricted people from stepping out, halted factories, and construction sites, causing workers to either return home or remain jobless.
Bharat Money Stores, an extension of IndusInd bank, is making a direct impact providing digital banking and payment service during this difficult time. BMS has a current strong network of more than 15 thousand merchants across 74 districts and covers more than 5 thousand villages. We aim to open 85,000 stores by the end of FY20 and 3.7 lakh store in the next 3 years with a potential customer base of 8 crores making us a pan India player. Our objective is to make banking easy and accessible for customers, and closer to their doorstep. BMS plans to create the largest rural distribution network by leveraging the network of merchants to fill the last-mile gap.
After the first lockdown announced by the Government of India, BMS has taken vigorous initiatives to avoid disruption of banking services in rural areas, especially the areas which are miles away from any banking infrastructure and dependable on AEPS enabled digital banking services provided by BCs of the banks. As Digital payments on channels such as UPI, IMPS, witnessed a plunge in value and volumes in April, Aadhar Enabled Payment System (AePS), central to government’s DBT architecture for distribution of relief fund was the only payment channel to record the transaction spike. AePS allows users to receive government benefits by using their biometric credentials to withdraw money. This is where BMS helps rural customers, by removing the need to visit branches, usually located far away, and serves in areas without ATMs. Our merchants are providing essential banking services such as withdrawals, deposits, IMPS, among others to the rural population.
Initially, our merchants faced restrictions to open the store despite being part of the essential services. We then provided RBI issued BC letters and IDs to aid them from the police and continue operations. BMS continued effective communication with the merchants through digital channels, educating them on the current pandemic situation and motivating them to help people by doing their bit for the country. Through posters, videos, and audio messages in regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, and Kannada, we are creating awareness regarding funds transferred to the bank accounts of rural and urban poor, migrant workers, and farmers under DBT, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna. We are also training merchants to resolve issues like transaction failure, app failures along with updating them on products, and functionalities.
Owing to these awareness activities, BMS showcased a tremendous jump in customer footfalls, with a record 7.5 lakhs plus unique customers in April. We have served more than 4.17 lakh customers for DBT related transactions (withdrawals, transfers, balance inquiry) with an average transaction ticket size of INR 1278. To highlight, more than 2.48 customers have made 3.04 lakh withdrawal transactions in April. Despite a dip in the total transaction value in April – the other bank withdrawals surged by 300% to almost 3 lakhs from 98,000 in March due to the convenience and accessibility of banking services via our merchants. Bill payments such as mobile and DTH recharge, utility bills saw a 35% growth with 3.26 lakh customers. Also, we have generated over 1 lakh leads in cash and consumer durable loans on products like mobile phones, sewing machines, refrigerators, etc. which are sold through Bharat Money Direct Sales mobile application at any Bharat Money Store. As the disbursement of loans and product deliveries are not attainable during the lockdown period, we have generated a large customer base that will benefit after the lockdown is lifted.
Being part of the essential service providing community, we are striving to continue serving our nation through BMS’s uninterrupted service, especially to the rural segment during these unprecedented times.