ICICI Bank has launched a mobile banking app focused on rural consumers which allow them to make fund transfers, including with UPI option, in 11 Indian languages. The app works in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia, Assamese and Punjabi. Note that other UPI apps, including PhonePe also work in Indian languages. The NPCI’s BHIM app covers 8 languages. None of these, however, allow the Virtual Payment Address, to work in an Indic language.
The app also offers bill payments, recharges, balance enquiries and other frequently used banking services without an Internet connection, via SMS. The app will have a set of pre-formatted templates and custom forms.
Apart from this, Mera iMobile allows users to search and discover information on the agroindustry including crop rates, agricultural products, weather updates among others. The app also allows its users to make requests for availing Kisan Credit Cards, gold loans for Self Help Groups, vehicle/tractor loans, make payments using linked savings accounts, debit cards, etc. Note that the agriculture related services offered under Mera iMobile is open to non-ICICI customers as well, and users need not necessarily require an ICICI account to sign up. However, a user will require an ICICI account to perform online banking and payments.
ICICI Bank’s focus on rural sector after demonization
The newly launched app focused on rural users comes as part of the bank’s cashless drive which aims to cover 100 villages and train 10,000 villagers in using digital methods of transactions. Some initiatives taken up by the bank include:
-Aadhaar-based instant account openings services
-Setting up of PoS devices across seed fertiliser outlets
-Facilitating Self Help Groups by providing loan and credit services.
-Digitising businesses by identifying a village’s predominant economic activity and developing custom-made cashless solutions. For example, in Akodara, the bank developed an end-to-end measuring, tracking and payment solution for the milk cooperative society and its members, according to this FirstPost story.
Other offline banking services
Apart from ICICI Bank, YES Bank also launched a similar cashless drive in December last year post the demonetization drive : YES Bank had launched a product called SIMsePay which uses a SIM jacket to enable mobile banking on any phone without the use of Internet. The sticker works on standard/micro/nano SIMs of any telecom service provider and will be linked to a co-branded prepaid wallet (which can be loaded up to Rs 50,000). Idea Money, the digital wallet of Idea Cellular, also has an offline USSD-based platform that will allow merchants and customers to conduct digital payments without the Internet.