Financial inclusion and financial empowerment are the buzz words of fintech. Novopay, a fintech startup has been slowly and inconspicuously transforming neighbourhood shops in villages as well as cities into micro-ATMs since 2014. The micro-ATMs enable people to deposit money into and transfer money from their accounts as well as withdraw money. So when the demonetisation hammer struck out of nowhere and left people reeling in its aftermath – ATMs out of cash, endless lines at banks for limited cash – Novopay’s micro-ATMs became the oasis in a cashless desert.
Founded in 2014 by Srikanth Nadhamuni, Sridhar Rao and Gautam Bandhopadhyay, Novopay started out with a vision to empower businesses, merchants and consumers with technology forward solutions. This vision included making banking and payments more convenient while also ensuring safety and security of transactions. The Novopay android-based wallet is designed to allow users to pay friends, bills and even local kirana stores with ease and convenience. In additions to this, the wallet even allows you to withdraw cash from local Novopay agents.
For retailers using the Novopay wallet to receive payments, it signifies getting rid of hassles like tendering change, limited cash and a means to manage daily transactions with ease as well. As one Novopay retail user admits, “My business requires transactions of large amounts, and Novopay makes it hassle free and safe.”
Demonetisation thrust Novopay into the limelight. While earlier its may have seemed like one among the crowd of mobile wallets like Mobikwik, Paytm, Vodafone M-Pesa, Freecharge and others, once cash became scarce and the common man was forced to adopt cashless payments and mobile wallets, Novopay came into its own by getting the required authorisations. It enabled cashless transactions and more importantly afforded an easier means to bank – withdrawing and depositing cash – by avoiding the long queues at Banks. Rohit Kumar, a resident of Gahara village in Bihar, who used Novopay told The Better India,
Our nearest ATM is 10 km away and we were facing great difficulty with the long queues in banks. Then I got to see Novopay at a nearby outlet and did my transaction.”
Small shop owners who acted as Novopay agents and retailers were also excited to be part of a revolution that later came to the rescue of the local people during the demonetisation. While the banking system scrambled belatedly to arrange for mobile ATM vans and cars to bridge the cash gap, Novopay was already in the thick of things. What initially began as an interim solution has now been adopted wholeheartedly by people who had their first taste of cashless transactions and remote banking. A number of women have become enthusiastic Novopay cheerleaders. For them it represents an effective means to deposit their daily savings and create little nest eggs.
The Novopay wallet is based on Aadhaar KYC and uses it effectively to spread financial inclusion. Thousands of migrant labourers in cities who lack access to the traditional banking system, unbanked citizens and villagers in remote towns and villages have been the major beneficiaries of Novopay’s wallet and micro-ATM. Novopay’s network is spread across 20 states, including Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Among its banking partners are Axis Bank, RBL Bank, Bank of India and IDFC Bank. Speaking about their technological innovation, Sridhar Rao, one of the co-founders of Novopay says,
We wanted to build a low-cost, mass-use, android-based, biometric enabled device that works on Bluetooth. We rely on the shop-owners’ cash box for the money circulation to happen. By simplifying the wallet and by using Aadhaar identification, we have been able to serve more people and stay reliable.”
Novopay has certainly done all this and more. It has quietly facilitated a cashless economy in the remotest regions of the country while the big names have hogged the limelight in the cities and bigger towns. It is empowering more citizens and ushering the unbanked under the traditional banking umbrella.