This initiative was launched with an aim to promote last-mile digital payment solutions for underserved communities of merchants and consumers in India. Housed at LEAD, it was supported through USAID’s Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program with FHI360.
The micro, small and medium enterprise segment (MSME) in India is an important pillar of the economy, with its significant contributions to employment generation, manufacturing output and GDP. Even so, the sector is largely informal, has limited access to affordable credit, and payments across the value chain are largely cash-based. While some payment use cases and strategies have gained traction in recent years, widespread acceptance remains elusive. Moreover, there is lack of granular insights and demand-side perspectives on the small business ecosystem. Against this backdrop, Catalyst was an initiative supported through USAID’s Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program with FHI360. Combining new technology, business models, and institutional innovations to help merchants and consumers, in particular low-income and disadvantaged populations, the two-year program was designed to scale digital payments adoption in India.
Digital Payments Lab
Through a partnership with the Government of Rajasthan, Catalyst set up a Digital Payment Lab in Jaipur where it rolled out initiatives targeted towards consumers, merchants and distributors. This infographic provides a snapshot of the program’s approach to promote last-mile digital payment solutions for underserved communities of merchants and consumers in India.
Fintech for the Last Mile Incubator Program
This program was designed to support start-ups that can reimagine and reinvent fintech products for the masses in ways that optimize for their specific needs, behaviours, attitudes, and contexts through affordable channels. Through this program Catalyst funded five innovative start-ups and provided them additional incubation support, in the first phase – Nearby Technologies, Fingpay, Kaleidofin, PayBee, Bix42 (formerly Merapaper). Learn more
Catalyst FINposiums were invitation-based platforms for sharing insights, trends, challenges and implementation experiences from India’s digital payment landscape. Over the course of the program, Catalyst organized ten flagship events that have successfully brought together policy experts, service providers, private sector practitioners and implementation agencies.
Over the course of the project, 3,940 merchants and 2,026 consumers were on-boarded onto a digital payment platform, and this translated into 35,936 transactions. The wealth of knowledge and insights generated by the program were published in the form of 25 learning notes, 2 policy white papers, 16 blogs/op-eds, 21 user stories, 5 infographics and 4 newsletters. In addition, Catalyst published five reports on structured research which discusses the surveys and qualitative data that was collected that gave Catalyst a better understanding of the financial needs and patterns of the low-income group and relevant recommendations to overcome the hurdles to adopt digital payment solutions from various sections of the population.
Seven payment use cases were tested and implemented in the Jaipur Digital Payments Lab. The selected payment use cases are: (1) eMitra consumer-to-government payments; (2) dairy business-to-business (B2B) and consumer-to-business (C2B) payments; (3) consumer-to-business payments with small stand-alone businesses; (4) newspaper consumer-to-business subscription payments; (5) FMCG supply chain business-to-business payments (B2B); (6) customer-to-business payments among low-income populations; and (7) credit as a hook.
Catalyst collaborated with policy-makers through various forms, such as providing key insights to expert committees, sharing findings from the pilots as relevant directly with the Joint Secretary at MeitY and producing policy whitepapers for regulators on potential solutions to test.
Lastly, Catalyst worked towards leveraging some of the most successful activities such as the Incubation program to set up a follow up program focusing on inclusive tech under NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (Catalyst AIC).