The vertical take-off of the mobile services industry in India in the past few years has been aided by an aggressive pricing strategy adopted by both handset manufacturers and mobile service providers alike. Significantly, this growth has also enabled rural India to get on the connectivity bandwagon like never before. Today, in many rural parts of the country mobile phone service is an integral part of daily life and is more accessible than electricity, road networks and clean drinking water.
Despite growth in the rural user base, the majority use of the mobile network in many parts of India has continued to be voice based phone calls with minimal data exchange. Data itself is mainly restricted to urban and semi urban areas with text messages (or Short Messaging Service (SMS)) making up a large part of the communication.
Even so, SMS, despite its simplicity remains an efficient but underutilized tool in information dissemination. With the recent spurt in competitive pricing of mobile services including SMS service, and the continued delays in the rollout of next generation data services (3G) – SMS has once again emerged as an extremely effective channel for the delivery of relevant personalized content. Additionally, an ever decreasing cost per SMS has only further bolstered usage.
In India, the challenge to make use of this powerful medium in an effective way gets amplified when taken in the context of rural India where content and language have to be in sync with the needs of the rural mobile user. To leverage this powerful medium, IFMR Rural Finance has deployed an SMS platform (pictured left) that has localization, interactivity and flexibility intrinsic to its functioning. Built with existing hardware, and open-source technologies, the platform is cost-effective, easy to operate and can be rapidly customized to meet the requirements of the end user.
When Sahastradhara KGFS started exploring ways to enhance service delivery they agreed that well informed field staff were an important part of the solution. Comprehensive class room training was already the norm – additional training (given the difficult terrain and accessibility challenges) involved long travel times and was going to be expensive. What the staff needed was a shorter ‘refresher’ flash-card like format. They realized that the SMS platform was a perfect fit.
Under project “Gyan Vardhan” the platform has been launched as a creative supplemental training tool to meet the need for formal information dissemination in between regular class-room training sessions. Designed like a ‘Quiz’, the system offers a fun way for Wealth Managers (WMs) to learn about the latest in products and processes through an SMS based question and answer format using text messages delivered in Hindi.
The quiz is devised to be interactive, with randomized unique questions sent out to each user. Respondents are updated on their score on a regular basis and also get to track the performance of their peers through periodic ranking reports. This instills both a sense of achievement among the WMs and further affirms a commitment to regular participation.
SKGFS – WM Daily update system
This launch marks an important first step for Sahastradhara in its use of mobile telephony to reach out to and better serve customers in the remote rural areas in which it operates. Project “Gyan Vardhan” would keep WMs in the field abreast of the latest product features and processes in a dynamic way, empowering them to give an informed opinion about services when interacting with customers.
Still in its early days, the platform has the potential to be used in other creative ways and deployed across groups. Please write in with suggestions on how this platform can be further built upon and improved. Please drop a comment below.
Anupama Joshi and Advait Behara contributed to this post.