This study aimed to understand the demand and supply-side factors that influence the success of the Business Correspondent model in India.
The Business Correspondent (BC) model has been instrumental in broadening financial inclusion in India, especially among underprivileged urban and rural populations. India has a large BC network comprising 1.26 lakh BCs that offer a wide array of services that range from cash-in and cash- out services to utility bill payments. Agents/Business Correspondents are usually one of the most vital transaction points in urban and rural areas among the poor and migrants. As of 2019, the value of transactions achieved through business correspondents stood at around USD 90 billion. This network of BCs has proven exceptionally beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic e.g. BC Sakhis under NRLM played an effective role in disbursing DBT during the last 3-4 months of lockdown. However, this network is not being utilized to its fullest potential and there are several challenges in ensuring its viability – both on the demand and supply side. In light of these challenges, Women’s World Banking (WWB), in collaboration with the Bank of Baroda, rolled out a pilot program in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, where the principal bank offered a wider range of suitable products through the BC agents. These BCs were also offered effective remunerations and incentives for the pilot. WWB commissioned LEAD to conduct a study with the following key objectives:
- Understand the main characteristics and qualities of a successful BC
- Understand the motivational/attitudinal determinants of BCs
- Operational determinants (revenue from different products/support received/issues redressed etc.)
- Assess the WWB and Bank of Baroda Pilot (perceived usefulness of the training/understanding of remuneration etc.)
- Impact of COVID-19 on their BC business (adapting new strategies/challenges faced etc.)
A mixed-method strategy (using both primary and secondary data) was employed to accomplish the objectives of this assessment. On the quantitative side, a survey of BC agents was conducted and a review of available administrative data was carried out. For this purpose, survey instruments were aligned with the prescribed Audit Tool by WWB. A sample of 205 BCs, randomly selected, was covered. Further, the sample was stratified; sample BCs will be selected both from the pilot cities i.e. Mumbai and Delhi and from non-pilot cities i.e. Baroda, Kanpur, Raipur, and Nagpur. The gender of the BCs was also considered for sampling.
On the qualitative side, in-depth interviews with BC agents were conducted. In addition, we also reviewed the relevant documents and reports, including past audit reports and BC performance assessment reports, training reports etc. For the purpose of in-depth interviews, a sample of 40 BCs was drawn. Given the limitations for the field survey operation due to the pandemic and social distancing norms; we used Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) for both quantitative and qualitative surveys. In this regard, the LEAD team has developed an updated survey protocol to conduct Computer Assisted Telephonic Interviews (CATI) aiming to maximize response rates and maintain strict data protection measures.