Alexa Queen Maxima and banking for the grassroots!

Dhaka, Monday   19 August 2019


Queen Maxima and banking for the grassroots!

 Zakaria Swapan

 Published: 11:06 AM, 11 July 2019   Updated: 12:23 PM, 11 July 2019

The Photo was collected from the writers` LinkedIn post

The Photo was collected from the writers` LinkedIn post

Today, I have passed another great day of my life! I met Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands who has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) since 2009. I met Her Majesty twice today - in the morning during a roundtable on FinTech in Bangladesh; and at the evening while Her Majesty visited one of our merchants at Rampura, Dhaka to see the innovation we have developed recently.

I never got any chance to meet any queen in person before. But, today Unilever CEO Kedar Lele and I were hosting Her Majesty at a very small store at Banashree, Rampura, Dhaka where she wanted to meet the people who were using our FinTech products and services.

During the morning roundtable session, she was focusing on how financial inclusion can become more user-centric - solving problems for the people where traditional banks are not serving. She was also focusing to start an association for the innovators, and creating innovation lab under the regulator i.e., Bangladesh Bank, so that it can create deep impact into the society.

I was telling her my stories in Bangladesh, how I was knocking the doors of all the Banks months after months to connect them directly; and how I got refused by the traditional banks regular basis. Recently we have successfully able to connect with BRAC Bank to transfer money in real-time. It was not easy. It took more than 1 year from my life to connect a single Bank. And, if we go at this rate, it will take rest of my life to connect Banks in Bangladesh! Am I going to do that? The answer is big NO! Regular has to do it.

In current solution of connecting Banks in Bangladesh is "Push" technique i.e., you have to log in to your own Bank, and then transfer money from that Bank to your wallet like iPay. But this is not the way we have to solve the problem. In iPay-BRAC-Bank solution, you can link your bank from iPay wallet, and you can transfer money by pressing a button. It is real-time, and secure. Both iPay and BRAC-Bank team worked few months together to develop this solution - which is done first time in this country. I ask readers to experience this solution in iPay App. 

In today's iPay solution, it is designed to support upper part of the pyramid - who has smartphone and internet connectivity. But, poor people neither can afford a smartphone nor the internet. Then, how they can take the benefit of digital wallet? How they can access digital bank?

To address this huge number of people (about 10M+) of the country, we have developed a new platform i.e., PriyoBank that can connect Banks/Wallets through fingerprints. YES, you can sign-up for an account which can be verified in realtime (by checking your National ID), and you can access your account from merchant points through your fingerprint. Moreover, you can make payments by your fingerprints too. You don't need any smartphone for this.

We randomly got a few people from nearby slum at Banarshree, Rampura, Dhaka, and asked them to try our solution. They volunteered to experience this interesting solution, which they have not seen before. People were going to the store, and signing-up for free; and we gave them some money to test the service. They were coming back to store, and purchasing goods by putting their thumbs on our machine. It created a buzz into that community. It was fun doing.

Her Majesty Queen Máxima came to know about it; and she showed interest to see how it works in the real-life situation. She visited one of our stores, and experienced that new technology we have built locally. She talked to the people, and the merchant to understand how they felt about it, and how it is impacting their life. Now, we can offer a true bank account to a person, who can access that account without going to bank's branch office. This will be the banking solution for the poor.

If we can really roll out this solution for the whole country, we will be able to change the way we access the bank today. In Bangladesh, if you want to do anything sincerely, you need 3 things -

1.    Patience
2.    More Patience and
3.    Unlimited Patience!

Let's see, how much energy and patience we have to explore that route.

I personally thank all of you, and express my sincere gratitude to you who worked day and night for last couple of months to bring this success. I am looking forward to seeing more things in near future. 

Writer: Zakaria Swapan, Founder and CEO, iPay (Bangladesh).