Money & Banking

Mahagram to deploy 12 lakh wireless Bharat ATMs by March 2021

Sangeetha Chengappa | | Updated on: Nov 30, 2020

Ram Shriram, founder and CEO, Mahagram | Photo Credit: SUSHANT JADHAV

These handheld wireless terminals are given to kirana store owners to enable card payments for customers

Mumbai-based fintech start-up Mahagram is all set to deploy 12 lakh wireless ATMs that will empower kirana shops and other retail stores to disburse cash to people, as banks are finding it increasingly unviable to operate and maintain ATMs across the country.

The five-year old bootstrapped start-up launched Bharat ATM, a rural banking platform last month, using private banks’ proprietary licenses.

Bharat ATM already has 1.5 lakh touchpoints across the country which comprises 20,000 handheld terminals (wireless ATMs) for card payments run on Aadhaar and RuPay card, and the rest are all Android mobiles with the Bharat ATM app installed, which can be used along with a finger print scanner for Aadhaar authentication to dispense cash.

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These handheld wireless terminals are given to kirana store owners to enable card payments for customers and the store owner is asked to download the Bharat ATM app on their Android mobile phones. Only those kirana stores that have adequate cash transactions every day are selected to enable cash transactions for customers.

“The four most popular ATMs in the country are those of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and SBI, which are big brands. At present, there is no consumer brand for micro ATMs in the country, besides Bharat ATM. We already have 1.5 lakh micro ATMs, which are a combination of handheld terminals in areas where there is debit card penetration, and our Android mobile app with finger print scanner for cash transactions,” Ram Shriram, founder and CEO, Mahagram, told BusinessLine .

“In three to four years, banks will shut down their ATMs as they are becoming unviable to run. Recently, a large private bank said it will charge ₹50 for more than three ATM transactions/month, vs five transactions/month earlier,” he said.

The start-up roped in Bollywood actor Sonu Sood to popularise the use of Bharat ATMs a month ago, and has already seen 20,000 app downloads in the first 10 days. With an average transaction size of ₹2,200 of cash withdrawals on Bharat ATMs, with eight transactions per person/per month, Mahagram has seen its business grow by 300 per cent during the pandemic.

“With the impact Sonu Sood is creating, we will enable over 10 lakh wireless ATMs by March 2021. Our target audience ― North Indian migrants ― is connecting instantly with him. For us, the maximum business comes from North India ― Delhi/NCR, Jharkhand, UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand and the North East, because these are the receiver corridors. People send money from urban areas like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi, and we help people in those corridors withdraw the money sent by migrants to their families through our Bharat ATMs.”

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“Moreover, the Government has remitted nearly ₹17,000 crore to BPL families during the pandemic. But during the lockdown, people were not allowed to travel out of their villages, and so they couldn’t withdraw that money as bank branches were operating at minimum capacity. In such a scenario, people can withdraw money from Bharat ATMs by walking up to the nearest kirana store,” said Shriram.

Published on November 30, 2020
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