The financial sector of Nepal is growing steadily, offering financial products and services through a network of branches spread across the country. The challenge now is to address the constraints that exclude certain populations from full participation in the financial system. Even today, large rural populations in the western, mid-western and far-western parts of the country lack access to formal financial services as most financial institutions are located in urban and semi-urban areas.
Due to the absence of formal financial institutions in the remote rural areas, locals avail loans at extortionately high interest rates from the local money lenders who often exploit the inability of the borrowers to repay the loans. Also, the habit of saving and investing in productive activities is found to be severely lacking in such communities.
As for the financial institutions, although they are interested in serving these communities, the difficulties in establishing full-fledged branches in such remote areas makes the proposition less attractive from a business point of view. Use of alternate delivery channels such as Branchless Banking (BLB) is one of the ways to serve these scattered communities in a cost-effective way.
To address the above-mentioned issues, UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) and Machhapuchchhre Bank Limited (MBL) partnered to launch a project titled ‘Simplified Microcredit Service”. Under the project, MBL aims to establish 20 BLB touchpoints across 7 different districts – Banke (3), Dang (3), Kailali (3), Kanchanpur (3), Rupandehi (3) and Surkhet (2).
Also, under this project, MBL has deployed 14 Relationship Managers (RM) in 14 of their branches identified as having potential for microfinance, especially microcredit businesses. The RMs are exclusively involved in microfinance activities in the areas covered by their respective branches and are also responsible for achieving the loan targets set in Sakchyam related project.
Additionally, the bank will carry out various financial literacy initiatives in rural and suburban areas. These will include running financial literacy camps and using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to reach more people in geographically challenging areas.
Over the project period of 3 years, MBL aims to serve over 3,000 beneficiaries through their BLB touch points and dedicated RMs. Besides this, the bank targets to reach 13,000 beneficiaries through their financial literacy initiatives. Overall, the project will provide access to various financial products and services to some of the most unserved and underserved population in Nepal.
As of September 2018, Machhapuchchhre Bank has launched 18 BLB touch points and appointed 14 dedicated RMs in 14 of their rural branches. They have reached more than 3,500 new customers; disbursed loan amount of GBP 3.04 million and collected the deposit amount of GBP 416,000.