Connected Women Case Study

Driving mobile money adoption for female customers in India

Accion partner, Swadhaar FinServe is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to India’s economically active urban poor. In 2013 Swadhaar was searching for new ways to leverage technology to streamline its processes, improve customer service and expand outreach. With advances in digital financial services and mobile money in particular, Swadhaar was interested in testing a mobile money loan repayment option. At the time, Swadhaar had over 170,000 active borrowers (the vast majority of whom were women), a portfolio of approximately US $31 million in loans, 35 branches in operation, and four loan products.

While reviewing market options, Swadhaar saw that Airtel Money had already launched an India-wide mobile wallet service in partnership with Axis Bank, so in January 2013 Swadhaar started a partnership with Airtel to offer Airtel’s mobile wallet, called ‘Airtel Money - Super Account” to clients of its group loan product on a pilot basis, in one city. The Super Account service allows clients to open a bank account and perform mobile transactions using an electronic wallet account. For Swadhaar, it allows their clients to repay monthly loan installments through a mobile device rather than paying a Swadhaar loan officer who previously collected payments door to door. In addition to enabling loan repayments, the service allows Swadhaar clients to open a full savings account (through a partnership with Axis bank), and perform additional transactions like utility payments using the mobile wallet. Swadhaar also provided clients with training through its non-profit associate on how to use the wallet and advantages of using the “saving” account facility.

In Q12013, Swadhaar and Accion’s Digital Solutions team started working together to advance the pilot. The Digital Solutions team provided Swadhaar with consulting services including definition and refinement of the mobile banking processes, planning and KPIs, client value proposition and education support, staff training and integration support with Swadhaar’s banking platform and the Airtel system. With Accion’s support, Swadhaar was able to expand the pilot from the initial two branches to eight branches throughout Mumbai. By the end of the pilot in November 2014, approximately 14,000 female clients had been enrolled in the Airtel Money service.

The key components of this success story were comprehensive and creative customer marketing and education.

Customer marketing and education are always needed to drive adoption of digital financial services. This is especially true for resource-poor women with limited education and technical literacy. In India, only 3% of women have heard of mobile money, and 0.1% have used it. Mobile money adoption requires overcoming fears and unfamiliarity with the service - building trust, literacy, and confidence. To address these challenges, Accion helped Swadhaar develop training modules to help female clients understand the benefits of a mobile money service. The modules were developed using pedagogical approaches such as storytelling, hands-on experience and “handholding” to help clients become comfortable with the service and ultimately adopt it. In the early months of the pilot, customers were transacting regularly on a monthly basis due to the support from Swadhaar staff.

While initial customer handholding is quite intensive, it is a necessary first step for women to become independent mobile money users for services beyond loan repayment.

As Swadhaar phased down the hand-holding support, there was a decrease in regular activity, so we knew another solution was needed to continue driving trust and comfort using the service. We supported Swadhaar in the creation and subsequent rollout of a Peer Educator Connection Program. This program was designed to help women adopt mobile money services on their own and to provide an income-generating opportunity for local peer educators. Accion also partnered with the GSMa Foundation to support a variety of activities such as improving the service, educating customers and driving adoption.

The training materials were revised based on intensive customer insight research to include new content enhanced visual graphics and demonstrations, as well as a deeper customer education journey with two additional touch points. Swadhaar’s customer education materials have been digitized, and there are plans to use this new digital application to help educators deliver interactive training to the wider community in Swadhaar’s Financial Literacy Centers.

To read a case study analyzing the implementation of the mobile money service itself, click here.

For more on the customer education and training components, click here.