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India: Agent Management to Sort Winners from Losers

The regulatory changes made in India last year have uncorked a stream of new branchless banking launches. Three new providers have or are just about to go to market.

They join three other firms who have been beavering away at branchless banking and are now gearing up for big growth: FINO, Eko, and A Little World.

Building viable agent networks is something they all wrestle with, and whoever learns how to build and manage the most viable agent network will probably emerge as a winner down the line. A CGAP team of Karuna Krishnaswamy, Claudia McKay, Mark Pickens and Sarah Rotman visited India last month. We conducted in-depth interviews with two dozen agents in two states, and met with a dozen senior managers responsible for agent network development.

Our detailed findings from India are here.

The India research was one part of a three-country study. Download the deck from our analysis of agents in Brazil and Kenya. Download a comparison of agents in Kenya and Brazil, presented at the Mobile Money Summit. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a closer look at agents in India, diving into 4 topics in a series of blog posts:

  • In Karnataka, FINO is doing something we haven’t seen in other countries: their agents are mobile, and deliver services at the doorstep of clients. How does this work? Is it effective?
  • What happens when agents have to act as a sales force? Both Eko and FINO (in Karnataka) will increasingly need their agents to be active participants in selling the financial services.
  • Distributors of fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) already have vast reach to literally millions of merchants. But is the branchless banking business similar enough that they can play a role in distributing financial products, too, with the same success that they have with soap, cigarettes and Coca Cola?
  • FINO has more than 10,000 agents in 25 projects across the country, and more than a thousand employees managing them in the field. How does FINO keep track of it all, identify the high (and poor) performers, and get the most out of its agents and employees?

Watch this space.

 

-Mark Pickens

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