The 2018 budget of the Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to empower women in the country. These include increased gas connections through subsidies to 80 million women under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (from the earlier 50 million) and a 37% increase in loans to women Self-Help Groups (SHGs).
|The Financial Inclusion Insights Wave IV India report reveals that only 6% of Indian women are advanced active account users3. This indicates that in India, women with bank accounts do not utilise them to their full potential. Women find female agents easier to approach, more trustworthy, and better at maintaining confidentiality as compared to male agents. ANA data shows that half the customers served by a woman agent are women, while two-fifths of customers that male agents serve are women. This shows that a woman agent is more likely to have women customers than a male agent. Clearly, more women agents on the ground are likely to boost the agenda of financial inclusion.|
Women Agents in India – Current Status
The ANA Wave II study finds that women agents have a mean age of 31 years. More than half have a bachelor’s or a higher degree. Predominantly, it is women agents who serve rural areas, with a presence of 71% as opposed to 54% male agents. Approximately 65% of these women agents are dedicated solely to agency banking 4 as opposed to 44% male agents. The ANA Wave II findings also reveal the following:
a) Women agents perform at par with the male agents in terms of running the business
In India, more than 137 million women are still excluded from formal financial services. There is evidence that women agents handle clients more professionally and perform at par with male agents in terms of business. In fact, women agents do more transactions and are preferred by women customers. These developments together indicate a business value proposition that we simply cannot ignore.
1The State of the Agent Network India 2017 report, based on the Agent Network Accelerator (ANA) Wave II survey, is a nationally representative study of the business correspondent (BC) agent network in India.
2Agents who offer digital financial services are known as business correspondent agents in India. We have referred to business correspondent agents (BCA) as agents and women BCAs as women agents.
3 Advanced active account users: Users who use a financial account for services other than basic or P2P services. In the FII study, in the case of mobile money, airtime top-ups are not considered an advanced use.
4 Dedicated agent – An agent who solely conducts agency banking business
5 The commission income from G2P facilitation is lower than CICO charges; MicroSave analysis and review of commission structure of providers in public domain.
6 The team conducted qualitative interaction with women agents during the fieldwork for ANA India Wave II