My story began when I left a well-paid corporate job to search for my true passion. Over the last two years, my first exposure to social impact has made me realize my inspiration in serving the poor. However, it takes more than a passion but a rare opportunity, enthusiasm and determination to make things happen and create values.
It is such an incredible experience for me to be a part of the Villgro Fellowship and to work with Artoo, one of Villgro’s portfolio companies in inclusive technology that is genuinely bringing a digital revolution to people at the bottom of pyramid. As a newbie in this industry, I have so far learned a great deal of microfinance, digital financial services and fin-tech startups in India. In particular, I have been amazed at how Artoo’s solution can transform banking services easily accessible to the poor and improve their quality of life.
How can this solution actually work in the field? The process to bring financial services in the field to the un/under-banked has historically been costly and manual for microfinance organization (MFOs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs). Hence, this has limited the ability for scaling up and created operational inefficiency, errors and fraud. To address these challenges, we have seen a new partnership emerged between digital financial services providers and MFOs/MFIs, especially innovative solutions for digitizing microfinance field operations.
Digital Field Applications (DFAs), according to Accion’s Case Study, the solution of using smartphones, tablets and other devices to help loan officers or field agents process loan applications for poor customers in the field, have created significant impacts on eliminating paper forms, digitizing data, and saving time and money for MFOs/MFIs and their customers.
As a specialized DFA provider, Artoo has designed its solution based on an Android mobile operating system to act as a financial Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, allowing financial institutions to manage all interactions with the end-customer on a single platform.
Two weeks ago I had a chance to see in reality how Artoo’s DFA technology is currently used for microfinance field operations at Ujjivan’s (Artoo’s customer) branch in Hubli. During the field visit, we conducted interpersonal interviews with loan officers, credit officers and small borrowers to better understand their needs, pain points at their works and the impact or benefits that they perceived from using Artoo’s technology. Their overall feedback for Artoo was very good, positive and satisfactory in terms of productivity improvement and a faster loan application process.
From an institutional perspective, Artoo’s field solution clearly helps financial institutions dramatically reduce costs, achieve efficiency enhancements and become more sustainable. From a client perspective, the solution makes their customer services to the poor more innovative and more effective in helping their customers out of poverty at scale.
In the course of my engagement at Artoo during the Fellowship, I find that there is huge prospect for Artoo’s DFA technoloy to go internationally. I am excited to work on an international business plan to introduce this field solution to MFOs/MFIs in developing countries, especially South East Asia, the region where I come from. Depsite challenges that a young startup is facing to “cross the chasm”, I and the entire Artoo team, optimistically believe in our innovative solution that can help MFOs/MFIs around the world to deliver dreams.
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