MSC undertook a study to optimize agent networks in two blocks—one each from the states of Maharashtra and Bihar of India. The objective was to understand the current landscape of financial services in the two blocks along with potential new agent locations and agent types. The geospatial analysis was conducted using mobile applications, such as ODK Collect and GPS Essentials, to collect the data and QGIS software for analysis.
The team mapped the geographical locations of all agent points, bank branches, and post offices to analyze the penetration of banking services in the respective blocks. MSC also mapped non-banking government infrastructure setups, such as primary health centers, panchayat offices, and Fair Price Shops (FPS) along with common service centers (CSCs) and commercial establishments like grocery stores, mobile recharge shops, and computer centers. This helped explore the potential of using these locations as alternative points to access the financial services.
Based on the analysis, MSC identified the following issues in the country that require specific action plans to enhance financial inclusion:
• The service area approach produced mixed results, mostly due to the lack of monitoring of its implementation.
• In areas where BC agents flourish, the support infrastructure needs strengthening to function smoothly. An example of such a method is agent segmentation, wherein agents can be classified into two types—relatively sophisticated sales agents and basic service agents. The ANA India Report of 2017 revealed that 74% of BC agents faced challenges in the rebalancing process, with long travel time being the major barrier. The sales agents can act as rebalancing points for service agents to help solve the problems related to liquidity that the agents face.
• Given the fact that certain areas are underserved or unserved due to a lack of a business case, we need to identify potential agents who are already engaged in other businesses in the area. People running fair price shops, common service centers, and post offices are examples of such potential agents identified by MSC’s analysis. The policymakers should develop a framework to identify businesses, establishments, and people who can be potential agents.