Sahaj eVillage Limited, the common service center initiative from Srei, has inked a deal with Airtel Money, Bharti Airtel’s mobile money offering, to provide banking facilities via common service centers, in three districts of Uttar Pradesh – Varanai, Jaunpur, Gorakhpur. Sahaj will offer potential customers an ‘Airtel Money Super Account’, which is powered by Axis Bank, and allows banking transactions including cash deposit, money transfer and cash withdrawal. The no-frills account gives an interest of 4%. More importantly, though, the Airtel Money linkage will allow remittance from one Airtel Money wallet to another, and the transfer of money from the bank account. Non-airtel customers can receive money on their mobiles and get it converted into cash through an existing Airtel Money Axis Bank customer service point in the state, or through one of these Sahaj Jan Seva Kendras, operated by Sahaj eVillage.
This appears to be Airtel’s first deal with a common service center, which are essentially Internet backed outlets which have been set up to provide government services to villages, in a public-private-partnership model. They also form an important rural distribution network, which can be leveraged by private players. What’s also noteworthy is that Sahaj claims to have over 550 business correspondents in Uttar Pradesh, in partnership with various banks, and thus, Airtel Money isn’t its only rural banking partner. The ability to transfer money from the phone, however, will be a differentiator for Airtel.
Sahaj says it is set to launch over 28,000 Common Service Centres (CSC) across 107 districts in the six states of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and that more than 24,500 CSCs have already been established.
According to the Indian government’s CSC website, the rollout of CSC’s in Uttar Pradesh is not complete, but the rollout is still better than in most other states. In Haryana, where certain contracts were terminated, there is only one CSC, whereas 1263 were planned. CSC’s were shut down in Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand as well.
Sahaj has also launched a shopping site in partnership with Infibeam, in May this year, but that wasn’t working then, and isn’t working now.
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