Mahagram to set up 12 lakh wireless Bharat ATMs

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It has become increasingly unfeasible for banks to operate and maintain ATMs across the country. Mahagram, a Mumbai based fintech company, has come up with wireless ATMs to empower small retailers. The company is all set to deploy 12 lakh wireless ATMs at kirana shops and other retail stores to disburse cash to people by March 2021. Recently, the five years old start-up launched Bharat ATM using proprietary licenses of private banks.

At present, Bharat ATM, a rural banking platform, has 1.5 lakh touchpoints including 20,000 wireless ATMs for card payments and the rest are android phones with the Bharat ATM app installed on it. The ATMs run on Aadhaar and Rupay cards. The Bharat ATM app uses a fingerprint scanner to authenticate Aadhaar before dispensing cash. These handheld terminals are given to selected kirana stores which have adequate cash transaction each day. These store owners can enable card payments for customers.

Ram Shriram, founder, and CEO, Mahagram, said that currently, Bharat ATM is the only consumer brand for micro ATM in the country. The company has 1.5 lakh ATMs, which comprise of handheld ATMs and the android app that uses fingerprint scanners. The wireless ATMs are placed in areas where there is debit card penetration. ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, and SBI are the four big ATM brands in the country. He added that the banks would be closing down their ATMs in the coming 3 to 4 years as they have become unviable to run. A large private bank is said to charge Rs. 50 for more than 3 ATM transactions per month, which was 5 transactions per month earlier.

The company signed in Bollywood actor Sonu Sood a month ago to popularise the brand. Within the first 10 days, the app saw 20,000 downloads and an average cash withdrawal of Rs. 2,200 from Bharat ATMs, with eight transactions per person per month. During the pandemic, the company saw a 300% growth in its business. The target audience of the startup is the North Indian migrants. Maximum business for the company comes from Delhi/NCR, Jharkhand, UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand, and the North East. The migrant workers who work in urban areas like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi will send money to their families and Bharat ATM helps them withdraw this money.

Shriram said that when Government remitted Rs. 17,000 crore to the BPL families during the pandemic, since banks were functioning with limited capacity and people were not allowed travel long distance, Bharat ATMs at nearest kirana stores were helpful for people during the lock-down.

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