Skip to main content
December 19, 2008

Eko pilots basic mobile banking for remote communities in India

NEW DELHI, India – Recently we’ve witnessed the emergence of number of smart initiatives tailored towards local communities in emerging markets that push mobile innovation without the need for expensive new hardware or software. Built on existing technologies, services such as Nokia Life Tools and FrontlineSMS have proved that it’s possible to pioneer with even the most basic tools, such as text messaging.

Even more basic than SMS, is the oldest form of mobile navigation, simply inputting numbers into your device. It’s exactly this method that has been adopted in a pilot scheme by a new company called Eko in cooperation with the Centurion Bank of Punjab, designed to help number literate people in remote areas of India to set up and manage a no frills saving account (called Abhilasha) via their handset solely using numeric input to control their finances and move money around.

Brought to our attention by Nokia design anthropologist Jan Chipchase, read on to find out more about how this innovative (yet old school) approach works, and watch a rather cheesy video of it being demonstrated.

Once your account is set up via a local representative of the service, the user is able to perform a number of simple banking tasks, such as punch in a series of digits corresponding to their account and where they want to move money, each set of numbers representing a different account or instruction.

The pilot scheme is taking place in an area of India called Uttam Nagar, and as the Eko website explains this is a perfect location to test this service, which is currently being limited to 5,000 customers:

“Uttam Nagar is characterised by an aspiring population representative of many similar areas across India. Most households have a monthly income between Rs. 2000 to Rs. 15000. The living conditions deteriorate as one moves into the interiors, away from the economic hub represented by the Delhi Metro line. The unbanked population in this area is very high as is mobile penetration making it a suitable area for our offering.”

Watch a video showing how the service is designed to work.

If you want to read more about Eko and the pilot scheme click here.