Empowering Bharat: The PayNearby Journey Towards Inclusive Finance and Digital Empowerment

An interview with PayNearby's founders delving into their journey revolutionizing financial inclusion in India through innovative Distribution-as-a-Service model, empowering millions with essential services and bridging the digital divide.

Aanchal Ghatak
New Update

(LtoR) Anand Kumar Bajaj, Yashwant Lodha, Subhash Kumar

In an interview with the pioneering minds behind PayNearby: Anand Kumar Bajaj, Yashwant Lodha, and Subhash Kumar. As the founders of PayNearby, they have led a transformative journey in the realm of financial inclusion in India. With a deep commitment to bridging the gap between rural communities and essential financial services, they have revolutionized the landscape through their innovative Distribution-as-a-Service (DaaS) model. Join us as we delve into their inspiring journey, insights, and vision for the future of inclusive finance in India.

Can you share insights into PayNearby's journey and the inspiration behind pioneering the Distribution-as-a-Service (DaaS) model for financial inclusion in India?

We at PayNearby deeply understand the challenges faced by rural communities in accessing essential financial services. Our journey began with a commitment to bridge this gap and empower every Indian, regardless of location. Witnessing first-hand the struggles of rural life, we envisioned a platform that would bring banking to the doorstep of every citizen. Since our inception in 2016, we have built a vast network of million-plus retailers across 20,000+ PIN codes and served 100+ mn customers across the country. With our Distribution-as-a-Service (DaaS) model, we are digitising, sachetising, and democratising access to multiple essential services, including e-commerce, assurance (insurance + assets), credit, entertainment, and more. Our innovative plug-and-play platform simplifies high-end technology for mass consumption and, with a retailer density capable of servicing 75% of Bharat, the platform ensures easy availability for previously underserved citizens at the last mile. By leveraging technology and strategic partnerships, we are poised to unlock the vast potential of India's underpenetrated markets, driving both social impact and economic growth.

PayNearby's role in initiatives such as 'Rebanking Bharat' and the meta-commerce revolution highlights its commitment to empowering local retailers and bridging the digital divide. How do you see these initiatives shaping the future of rural commerce and financial inclusion?

At PayNearby, we have been continuously working on innovation-led partnership models to offer financial solutions to all in Bharat. To re-bank India with ‘Har Ghar Bank Khata’, we have simplified account opening and operation, fostering robust savings behaviour in rural India. Through easy onboarding and assisted journeys, we are empowering local retailers to serve as trusted banking points, helping Bharat integrate into the formal economy at an accelerated pace.

PayNearby Mall - a meta commerce platform to enable easy availability of good and services, in an assisted mode at the last mile. Customers can walk into these nearby stores and with the help of the local retailer, access products on an aggregated e-platform of 100+ partner sites and shop easily for the products they need. The personalised approach of this unique model helps customers make the right decision and buy the right products. It results in enhanced cost efficiency for e-commerce players and grants retailers access to a vast inventory, empowering them to meet the evolving demands of Bharat and thrive.

The expansion into commerce products and credit services signifies PayNearby's evolution beyond traditional business correspondent roles. What opportunities and challenges do you foresee in this transition, particularly in the context of rural markets?

With e-commerce and credit services, we have transcended the traditional BC role, leveraging our vast retailer network and robust technology platform. With the introduction of assisted e-commerce in our network, rural aspirational customers are getting the choicest products at a nearby store, retailers are seeing enhanced income, and e-commerce partners are not only reaching new markets but seeing reduced returns rates, optimising overall business costs. Additionally, our focus is on democratising access to vital services like credit, pivotal for rural development. Through strategic partnerships with Lending Service Providers (LSPs) and simplifying technology via our DaaS platform, we are addressing these challenges. Our strong distribution network and the usage of AI and ML help us understand diversified cohorts and design personalised products that meet local requirements, facilitating the permeability of services across rural counters and delivering sustainable economic value. With vast untapped markets and ambitious projections for the digital economy, the potential is immense. Our meta-commerce model empowers rural consumers while benefiting e-commerce partners, and our credit integration revolutionises access for MSMEs and customers in Bharat, underscoring our commitment to making easy-to-consume financial and digital services available to everyone, everywhere.

PayNearby's engagement with government initiatives, such as partnering with Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM) and Rajasthan Grameen Aajeevika Vikas Parishad (RAJEEVIKA), underscores its commitment to social and economic inclusion. Could you share some key insights and outcomes from these partnerships?

In the dynamic landscape of Bharat, achieving mass transformation necessitates mass mobilisation and the formidable BC network is ideally positioned to embrace this challenge. BCs have been instrumental in bridging the financial and digital gap at the last mile. We are extremely honoured to work with Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM) and Rajasthan Grameen Aajeevika Vikas Parishad (RAJEEVIKA) and other livelihood missions to propel countless women towards economic independence and societal recognition. Together, we are upskilling the BC network and making them viable multi-service counters beyond cash-in/cash-out services. It is critical not only for the long-term financial viability of rural BC counters but also for the overall growth of communities at the grassroots level. A diversified product portfolio drives more value per footfall and enhances customer loyalty and retention. The collaborations are underpinned by a shared commitment to augment women’s capacity to thrive in a more connected business environment, demonstrating the benefits of sustainable development and financial independence, offering them an opportunity to become self-reliant.

In light of the recent reports highlighting the surge in UPI transactions at retail stores and the significant healthcare expenditure in semi-rural and rural households, how does PayNearby plan to address emerging needs and challenges in these segments?

Our Retail-O-Nomics 2024 report showcased a surge in UPI transactions, with a 118% increase in volume and a 106% increase in value at semi-urban and rural stores. This represents the growing adoption of UPI beyond Tier II regions in the country. It indicated that consumers at the last mile, are letting go of their inhibitions and becoming more open to online payment adoption. Our Bharat Health Index 2023 report helped us understand the current gaps in existing healthcare infrastructure and what can be done to make it better for the masses. It highlighted the critical need for more trained medical professionals in remote areas, a better financial support system for medical expenditure, accelerated insurance penetration and judicious use of technology to find breakthroughs in distribution. Our retailers, as Health Correspondents, are helping bridge the gap between urban and rural healthcare services, enabling citizens in Bharat to access all the necessary facilities available to their urban counterparts. However, there is still a huge untapped market that needs the right product, pricing, and distribution for easier adoption. We are working incessantly to make services accessibility through simplified technology and universalisation via our DaaS network.

What are the key growth strategies and priorities for PayNearby, particularly in terms of expanding its network of retailers and enhancing service offerings?

At PayNearby, we recognise the evolving narrative of rural India as it eagerly awaits to be actively integrated into the formal economy. While traditional banking services are growing, there is a need and notable uptake in solutions like credit, insurance, and e-commerce. Yet, there remains a vast untapped market needing tailored products, pricing, and distribution for seamless adoption. Our mission is to implement measures for widespread financial and digital service accessibility, particularly in Tier II and beyond. With a commitment to empowering both retailers and consumers, we focus on user-friendly solutions, technology simplification, and democratisation through our DaaS network. Our growth strategies revolve around expanding our retailer network, diversifying service offerings, and strengthening technological infrastructure and partnerships. Through scalability, innovation, and customer-centricity, we aim to deepen our impact, driving economic empowerment in India.