Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) that aims to take banking to the doorstep of every citizen by arming three lakh postmen and 'Grameen Dak Sewaks' with digital aids to deliver financial services.
IPPB -- which will be available through 650 branches and 3,250 access points immediately, scaled to all 1.55 lakh post offices by December 2018 -- is like any other bank but with smaller scale of operations and without involving any credit risk.
The freshly-minted payments bank will accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh, offer remittance services, mobile payments/transfers/purchases and other banking services like ATM/debit cards, net banking and third-party fund transfers.
Launching the service, Modi said with e-mails taking over inland letters, many thought technology had threatened the existence of the postal department and that postmen would lose their livelihood.
"(The growing pace of) technology (in communication) threw a challenge. We used technology as a base to turn that challenge into an opportunity," he added.
Noting that the postman has a special place in Indian movies and literature, he said the 'daakiya' (postman) not only delivered letters, but also read them out to the families who were not literate, and even replying to the letters on their behalf.
He said the same postman is all set to don a new avatar, where he would provide banking services as well as promote digital literacy to the remotest parts of the country.
"We have heard song 'Dakiya dak laya'. From now, along with dakiya dak laaya, dakiya bank bhi laaya... Dak sewaks will not only help in digital transactions but will also provide training to people so they can themselves carry out digital transactions from their phones," he said.
The postmen will not only be bankers but also digital teachers, he noted. IPPB will leverage tech platforms, to the hilt -- it will use Aadhaar to open accounts, while a QR card and biometrics will drive authentication, transactions, and payments.
Grameen Dak Sewaks will be armed with smartphones and biometric devices to handle transactions.
Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said IPPB will be available through 650 branches and 3,250 access points. Deposits in any account that exceed Rs 1 lakh will be automatically converted into post office savings account, he said.
IPPB has permission to link around 17-crore postal savings bank (PSB) accounts with its own set up.
Sinha said there are about 1.4 lakh bank branches and nearly 50,000 of them are in villages, which face a challenge in reaching the unbanked.
"IPPB will transform that. To the 1.4 lakh bank branches, 1.55 lakh branches will be added now with this launch," he added. Sinha said that with the postal payments bank, people will be able to open an account in a minute with Aadhaar and biometrics.
The government-backed IPPB will compete with Airtel Payments Bank and Paytm Payments Bank.
IPPB will offer products and services though multiple channels such as counter services, micro ATMs, mobile banking app, messages and interactive voice response.
It will offer 4 per cent interest rate on savings accounts. IPPB has teamed up with financial services providers like PNB and Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance for third-party products like loans and insurance, respectively.
Of the 1.55 lakh post offices, about 1.30 lakh are located in rural areas. IPPB is keen on tapping this network for expanding its efforts of financial inclusion and providing banking services to hitherto untapped market.
IPPB will also facilitate digital transactions and help deliver the benefits of schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, which provide assistance to farmers.