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ReFinD-IEIC webinar discusses strategies for improving agent services in India's last mile communities

Caption: Traditional Indian woman with phone - Credit: Freepik

In the fast-evolving world of financial services, the last mile often proves the most challenging yet crucial stretch. It's where innovation meets necessity, and where the financial inclusion goals are realized or left unrealized. Recently, a webinar led by ReFinD, in partnership with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) and the Inclusion Economics India Centre (IEIC), brought together thought leaders from academia and industry in pursuit of a shared objective – to deliberate on solutions for enhancing last mile access to quality agent services in India. This initiative is part of a series of activities organized to deepen awareness among Asia research about the ReFinD RFP2024 and enhance collaboration. 

The webinar, titled "Improving Last Mile Access to Quality Agent Services in India," served as a platform for knowledge and experience sharing among financial inclusion stakeholders across different countries and continents. Notable highlights of the event included presentations by esteemed academics such as Prof. Gaurav Kulkani from the University of Virginia, who discussed their ReFinD-funded project "Last-Mile Financial Access and Inclusion in India," and Prof. Kanika Mahajan from Ashoka University, who presented on "Banking the Unbanked: Capital Investment and Credit-Constrained Firms." 

The well-attended event also featured a dynamic panel discussion comprising ISSER Director and ReFinD Executive Director, Prof. Peter Quartey; Ms. Aiswarya Chandrasheka, Marketing Lead of FIA Global; Dr. William Derban, Head of Programme and Partnerships, Digital Innovations Team at from Opportunity International; and Mr. Sunil Kulkarni, CEO of Business Federation of India. The panelists shared invaluable insights and expertise on the overarching theme, focusing on critical issues such as training, trust, transparency, and security in agent service delivery.  

Throughout the discussions, participants engaged in insightful exchanges, identifying key pain points faced by agents and exploring solutions to enhance service quality. The themes of certification, security, and incentivization, emerged as central to addressing challenges in the last-mile delivery of financial services.  Also emphasized were the significance of policy support, infrastructure and onboarding and ongoing training for agents. 


Deepening awareness about the ReFinD 2024 Request for Proposals 

In his welcome remarks, Prof. Peter Quartey used the opportunity to raise awareness about the ReFinD 2024 Request for Proposals (ReFinD RFP2024), underscoring the Initiative’s commitment to tackling challenges and obstacles hindering agent service provision at the last mile.  

“At ReFinD, we aim to foster understanding of the main issues and the major obstacles that hinder agent service provision at the last mile by synthesizing the views key players in the agent network ecosystem” he noted.   

Concluding the session, Prof. Quartey urged participating researchers and institutions to submit proposals for the ReFinD RFP2024, advocating for enhanced collaboration between academic institutions and commercial entities.  

Held on May 24, the online event attracted participants not only from India but also from the United Kingdom, Kenya, Ethiopia, the USA, and Nigeria, reflecting its global resonance and impact.   

The recording is available here.