Roving Tellers Spread Banking To India's Hinterland

Human ATMs are traveling from village to village in India, sometimes by rickshaw, armed with computer gear and taking deposits. They’re part of a state-wide initiative to spread banking to the vast rural population that normally has no access to it.

The New York Times reports the tellers use a laptop, wireless modem, and a fingerprint scanner for identification. They open up accounts, take in deposits, and send money between parties. So far the 60,000 mobile bank reps have set up 74 million accounts. They’re helping people save money, money that would otherwise be spent or hid inside an unlocked house. And it seems to be working. From March to August of this year, the average account balance rose from 100 to 160 rupees.

At about $3.30, that’s not exactly breaking the bank, or making bank. In fact, the bank loses money on each transaction and pays the mobile transactors a percentage of each transaction. But the bank feels that spreading account services is a worthwhile long-term investment.

“Right now, it’s more of a social obligation,” Krishna Kumar, a managing director at State Bank, told the New York Times. “But in a few years, it will be significant.”

Traveling Tellers, With Electronic Gear, Take Banking to Rural India [NYT] (Thanks to Harper!)