Case Study: A Rural Bank in India
In India, over 830 million people, or around 70% of the population, live in rural areas. Access to basic services, such as banking and finance, can be a challenge for people living in these rural communities, especially when you live a long way from the nearest town. But without access to a bank account or basic financial services, many Indians are at risk of having their savings stolen, they cannot access loans to grow their business and are not able to receive government handouts, should they need them.
Integra/i25 Rural - A Banking Inclusion Network
To address this problem, Integra MicroSystems and their subsidiary i25 Rural, have developed a mobile banking terminal that is used by their network of over 15,000 agents to provide basic financial services to millions of Indians living in rural areas. With their network of agents established, Integra/i25 Rural wanted to explore what other services they could offer to customers through their agent network.
Selling Power as a Service
Using the BuffaloGrid Hub - our award-winning off-grid mobile phone charging system - we were able to provide Integra with a technology platform and operational support to help their rural customers keep their phones charged.
Our goal was to help Integra develop a new service for their rural customers, by leveraging their network of agents. This would allow Integra/i25 Rural to create a new revenue stream that could generate income for themselves and for their agents.
Project Delivery in Karnataka
BuffaloGrid worked with Integra/i25 Rural to provide the BuffaloGrid service in 10 villages in the districts of Shimogga and Hubali rural Karnataka, South India.
Over a 11 month period, and in stages, we supplied 10 BuffaloGrid Hubs along with solar panels and enough cables to charge 20 phones simultaneously. Sales data from the Hubs was provided through an online Dashboard, which allowed Integra/i25 Rural to monitor sales performance and track unique user growth across their fleet of Hubs.
We also provided training to the Integra/i25 Rural Team on how to ensure success from their BuffaloGrid Hubs. This training included:
- How to select the right locations and best agents.
- How to train their agents in using the Hub and paying for power.
- How to set sales targets and motivate their agents to sell power.
- How to market the mobile charging service in their agent’s villages.
Integra/i25 Rural set each agent a monthly target of 1,500 charges. Each agent needed to hit this target within six months of the Hub being provided to them.
With 10 agents managing Hubs, Integra/i25 expected to be selling around 15,000 charges each month once all agents had been active for six months.
By July 2016, Integra/i25 Rural agents were serving 15,685 monthly active users with 23,426 charges.
Not only were all agents successful in hitting their targets within the six month period, four agents hit their target in under three months and two agents beat their targets by over 100%.
By July 2016, each agent was selling an average of 2,342 charges each, beating the average target by 53%.
Highest Performing: Anitha in Kunundur
Anitha was one of Integra/i25 Rural’s highest performing agents. As well as being an Integra/i25 Rural banking inclusion agent, she also managed a local food shop at a busy road junction in Kunundur, in rural Karnataka (Map).
Grid power was available in Anitha’s village, but only 4-8 hours a day. And in the surrounding villages, the grid power supply was varied - sometimes as high as 18 hours a day, sometimes as low as 2 hours a day.
Integra/i25 Rural provided Anitha with a Hub in late November 2015, and after a slow start she quickly tapped into demand for mobile phone charging in her area.
She estimated that around 40% of her customers were residents of the local area, with the remaining 60% coming from people passing through the busy junction where her shop was located.
Anitha observed that while many of the customers from the local area would charge their phones for 90 minutes, many of the customers passing through the area would charge their phones for 30 minutes or less.
Fastest Growing: Basavaraj in Sunakalibidre
The village of Sunakalibidre in Haveri, Karnataka was one of Integra/i25 Rural’s fastest growing locations for mobile phone charging. The agent who managed the service, Basavaraj, also ran a busy roadside food store as well as being an Integra/i25 Rural banking inclusion agent.
Despite being a large village with an estimated population in the surrounding area of 5,500, the grid power supply to the village was poor, and varied between 2 - 8 hours a day.
Integra/i25 Rural provided Basavaraj with a Hub at the end of December 2015, and with three months, he had broken through his monthly sales target of 1,500 mobile phone charges.
Basavaraj reported that some customers would drop their phones off with him in the morning on their way to work in the fields, and collect them in the afternoon on their way home.
This rapid sales growth allowed Basavaraj to quickly increase his monthly income with an activity that was neither labour intensive nor time consuming.
Testimonials: Our Agents, Customers & Users
What did the agents say?
“BuffaloGrid is a great source of income for my family. I spend most of my earnings from selling mobile phone power on my children. It has allowed me to send my daughter to dance class and helped pay for books and school fees. The rest, I spend on myself!”
Anitha, Kunundur (Shimogga, Karnataka, India)
What did the users say?
From our research in the villages of Kenchnala, Baluru and Hirenellur, we found the large majority of users found the mobile power service “convenient, affordable and useful”. Users told us that it is useful “during power cuts” but also “when power is available” as it is not always convenient for users to travel back to their home.
What did Integra/i25 management say?
“BuffaloGrid has helped add a new revenue stream to our agent network. This has allowed us to offer a new service to our customers and increased the income that agents within our network receive. As a result, we have increased customer and agent retention, and increased average revenue per customer and income for our agents. Through this innovative technology, we have really strengthened the value of our agent network.”
Rishabh Jain (Integra/i25 Rural)
What did Integra/i25 operations team say?
“Working with the BuffaloGrid Team was a great experience for us. We learnt a lot about how to use the technology system, how to motivate agents and how to promote the service in rural areas. It is great working with a service which brings such a clear benefit to both our customers and our agents.”
Jaganath SH (Integra/i25 Rural)