The large-scale launch of the mega financial inclusion plan â€œJan Dhan Yojanaâ€ by our new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was cause for much excitement among a large number of financial sector enthusiasts. The initiative is essentially the first big move towards improving access to formal financial products and services for 75 million Indian households.Â As a keen observer of the sector, the potential scope for the implementation of the plan had me very enthused and I was keen to see how the government was ready to go about it . CKSâ€™ past research has shown that poor levels of awareness and access are not the only problems to the adoption of financial services among low-income households. There are several other factors such as poor understanding of customer needs, distorted perceptions of financial products and societal influences that hinder the adoption of formal financial products. These existing products are required to match the skill-set and knowledge base of their potential low-income customers for any measure of success.
It was amidst this rush that a social entrepreneur who also wears the hat of a financial literacy expert approached us with a unique idea. His idea placed value on the various socio-cultural aspects that made each household different and thus directed their financial needs. Furthermore, he sought to provide financial products to his customers that closely aligned with their needs in terms of interest rates, EMIs, maturity period and rate of return.
We have since assembled a team of researchers, product designers and financial experts who will try to tackle the various issues from different perspectives through a cyclical process that we refer to as the CKS Innovation Cycle.Â The team of researchers aims to understand the problems by deconstructing them and then segregating them into userâ€™s fears, pain points and motivations; product designers will employ creative thinking to develop customer-centric products and financial experts will provide relevant knowledge support required to draw feasible and viable product solutions. The story will become more interesting when, for the purpose of enhancing them further, we will put these proposed product solutions in the hands of the actual users and see how they work.
The team has already begun the process of acquiring domain knowledge from secondary resources, project stakeholders and sectoral experts to understand the current situation and map the path ahead. Preliminary readings indicate similar problems being cited often but not being solved at the same pace. They have all been fantastic studies in their own right but this CKS team hopes to kick it up a notch. The Â first step for us will be coming up with the right questions. At this point, we wonâ€™t claim to to be able to solve everything, but finding the right direction to work in, is a great place to start.