Forget English, go vernacular: Niti Aayog CEO to fintech firms

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June 12, 2020 7:08 PM

Niti Aayog CEO said the fintech companies risk alienating audiences and losing steam if they ignore India's diverse set of languages and dialects while helping increase the coverage of formal financial services.

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.

Forget English and go vernacular to expand your reach, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant advised financial technology (fintech) firms on Friday. He said the fintech companies risk alienating audiences and losing steam if they ignore India’s diverse set of languages and dialects while helping increase the coverage of formal financial services.

“Vernacular is the way forward. Financial integration efforts will need to localise their offerings and allow for dialects and languages as opposed to delivering services only in English,” Kant said while addressing a virtual summit organised by industry body CII.

“Forget English and go vernacular,” the career bureaucrat, who now heads the government’s think-tank, added. If the financial sector firms do not adopt vernacular languages, all the previous efforts risk losing steam as people will get “alienated”, he warned.

He further said India has taken long strides on the financial inclusion front since 2011 by increasing the number of citizens who have bank accounts to 80 per cent now from 36 per cent. Kant said in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, while India has been able to send money to targeted segments through the direct benefit transfer scheme, countries like the US are struggling with the task.

He said the 39 crore zero balance, no-frills Jan Dhan accounts have average balance of Rs 3,400 at present. There is a need to go beyond account opening and savings products, and look at micro lending and micro insurance as well, he said.

On the capital markets side, he blamed the concentration of marketing activities in the cities for rural markets missing out. “Capital market participation is low because of lack of awareness… in India. Most investor camps are concentrated in urban areas whereas rural participation is necessary in order to democratise capital markets,” he said.

He reiterated the importance of vernacular languages in making it possible for more people to access capital markets. Kant also said India has a target to take digital payment transactions to 1 billion a day from the present rate of 3 billion a month.

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