Financial inclusion – no longer an option, but a compulsion

Studying in one of the top notch b-schools in the country, one expects to see people of great repute coming in to address the students. However, when you are attending a Tabla concert and Ustad Zakir Hussain himself is gracing the occasion, it adds another feather in the cap of the audience.  This is the closest parallel I can think of when speaking of address of Dr. C Rangarajan, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, at the Great Lakes Financial Inclusion Conference (held on 06-Aug-2010). The conference was conducted by the Union Bank Great Lakes Centre for Banking Excellence at our institute’s sprawling campus. It was captivating to see the key note speech given by the father of financial inclusion himself, after a warm welcome by Uncle Bala and Mr. M.V. Nair, CMD of Union Bank.

Dr.Rangarajan gave us food for thought with his crisp but engaging speech. He weaved his magic with several key points driving home the message that financial inclusion is a must for inclusive growth of the country. He ran through initiatives which, he thought the government must take and those that have already been taken. Unlike most people who project subsidies as the way to move forward as the cost of inclusion, Dr.Rangarajan made it clear that a method to share these costs must be arrived at, to make the industry competitive and scale up the availability of credit to the marginal sections of our society. Further, he stated the importance of the business facilitator and correspondent model and its effective implementation. There is a need for customization of products for “Financially Excluded Sections”. Technology has to be leveraged to enable banks to go to customers. Effective credit delivery system should be sustainable and also given the size of the market there is a lot of scope for scaling up the system.

Dignitaries at GLFIC 2010

Dr.Subir Gokarn, Deputy Governor, RBI was the next speaker and we again had high hopes pinned on him. During his speech he pointed out the missing links in India’s story and how the policy makers, regulators and industry members must come together to find innovative solutions in this untapped region. His speech reflected his deep understanding of the subject, showcasing his knowledge and experience. The audience was enthralled by a panel discussion between economists and eminent industry stalwarts all through the afternoon after which several participants presented papers on modes to achieve financial inclusion. The most significant point, I noted from all that was spoken in connection with Financial Inclusion, was that it is a necessary condition necessity for the inclusive growth of the economy. Another point made by one of the speakers, Prof. Naresh Sharma of Hyderabad Central University, was the need for understanding the culture and lifestyle of this segment and creating solutions bearing the constraints that arise out of these factors. This Section of society does not want charity; they want a chance, an inclusion in the India’s growth. There is a lot of learning that happens at Great Lakes, today Gladiators learned that for India to grow, there is a Bharat that needs to grow as well. We as their fellow citizens have to come up with a rural distribution market for banking Services which would erase the boundaries between Bharat and India.

– Prannoy Kankaria

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