Bringing iPads to the paddy fields - banking in rural India

I was reading this article a few days ago, that Central Bank of India wants 800 new bank branches in rural India. A recent survey of rural India has shown that there are only 36 branches for every million (10 Lakh) people, compared with over 100 branches in urban areas.

I was reading this article a few days ago, that  Central Bank of India wants 800 new bank branches in rural India. A recent survey of rural India has shown that there are only 36 branches for every million (10 Lakh) people, compared with over 100 branches in urban areas.

All banks prefer to have branches in urban areas rather than in the rural or suburban. The primary reason being, the  profitability of rural branches is much less when compared to metropolitan or urban branches.

The World Bank has projected growth of 4.7% for FY 2013-14 for the Indian banking sector. The Central Bank of India clearly believes that to achieve this goal, banks will have to focus on developing the rural market and open branches in the more remote areas. This will be challenging for banks, as they seek to ensure profits from these rural branches.

With the advances in computer and communications technology, banks can achieve this leap forward. Some banks are leading the way, like PNC Bank's Portable Pop-Up Branch, or the  Business Correspondents from Indian Overseas Bank.

There are other effective ways to reduce cost and make rural branches profitable. For example, banks can use mobile handheld devices - like tablets for branch systems. Tablet devices, unlike desktops, are mobile and do not require power supply or a desk. This makes them flexible - and even easier to carry than a laptop. The use of tablets would help bank staff to commute easily between different locations.

Innovations in tablet design is increasing the security features of devices. Intel, for example, has developed the capability to have tablets deactivate if they are moved away from a broadcast beacon. This means devices would only work in designated locations - and reduces the risk of theft and fraud.

Some teller solutions are already available for various tablet devices. With the ever improving availability of mobile communications in remote areas, branch applications running on a tablet device can directly connect to a Host system over a secure network. This will ensure all operations are can be updated on a near real time basis at the host.

Additionally biometric authentication can provide another layer of control and security for both bank staff as well as for customers. The launch of finger print scanners demonstrates how tablet devices can also replace the need for separate biometric hardware.

To take advantage of the large market like rural India, banks needs to take advantage of new technology. I believe taking iPads to the paddy fields will help to speed up the penetration of banking services in rural areas.