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IT Voice interaction with Ms Reema Mukherjee, Head of Digital Growth, Arohan Financial Services Limited

Jahnavi– How did you decide to start digital lending as the microfinance industry is known to serve underserved segments where education and penetration of the internet is a debatable topic.


Reema– Independent reports, as well as, my personal experience indicates that penetration of the internet across geographies, is definitely not in question any more.

About education, amongst our customers less than 20% identify themselves as illiterate or semi-literate. Others have all received some level of formal education. With changing customer demographics, preferences and behaviour, digital lending is no longer just good-to-have. Instead, it a must-have in today’s world.


Jahnavi– How does your digital innovation has impacted the microfinance industry and the customers it serves?


Reema– ArohanPrivilege is a one of its kind digital platform for gold standard microfinance customers, with exceptional repayment behaviour. It is also an alternate channel for sourcing new customers. Customers today are much more aware, and savvy, and Arohan believes in empowering deserving customers with the power of choice in terms of their transactions with the Company and saving their time from attending time consuming centre meetings. The best-in-class customers get the opportunity to be a Privilege customer of Arohan. True digital financial inclusion is happening now.



Jahnavi– What are the challenges you facing in case of deploying digital innovation in your industry?


Reema– Customers awareness is a constant effort – with focus on creating financial literacy to help them identify and protect themselves from digital scams. The constant effort of the government to promote digitalisation along with awareness programmes by the Reserve Bank of India has helped a lot in making progress across this segment.



Jahnavi– As top management of Arohan got another term at MFIN hence how do you see bringing digital innovation to the industry?


Reema– Cashless is already on the rise for the past few years, and digital innovation is the key for both customers, and well as the microfinance institutions, in terms of sustainability and scalability. ArohanPrivilege is one such breakthrough offering for microfinance customers. This is sure to increase and see more traction, going forward.


Jahnavi–  Recently couple of people committed suicide in Orissa hence how do you plan to solve the issue using technology? (if possible)



Reema– Digital innovations, such as ArohanPrivilege allows better and quicker access to formal credit to people representing the bottom half of the socio economic pyramid, thus effecting overall improvement in their earnings and in their livelihoods.



Jahnavi– Impact on your portfolio in three years due to digital innovation.


Reema– Due to the novelty of the programme in the context of the Indian microfinance customers, we expect quick uptake of this facility from the customers’ side. Currently, our digital lending pilot has more than 12,000 customers and we have total assets under management (AUM) in excess of INR 50 crore. This is expected to grow to INR 300 crore in this financial year, and going ahead, we see this number growing to INR 2,000 crore in the next 2-3 years.


Jahnavi– Any data on the percentage of people interested to accept digital innovation in your segment?



Reema– All customers with smartphones in their families are interested in digital innovations. With quick uptake of apps such as Facebook & Youtube and with increasing financial and digital literacy amongst our customers, alongwith the added advantage of their children being digitally literate, the uptake is even higher.



Jahnavi–  What impact has ArohanPrivilege’s digital lending initiative had on rural and underprivileged communities in India?


Reema– Arohan is focused on driving innovation and differentiation through its products and processes with an aim to expand its outreach while serving customers better. ArohanPrivilege, which is a unique digital facility for gold standard microfinance customers allows customers the advantage of receiving money in their account within minutes of a successful loan application, with the flexibility of choosing the loan tenure. It provides unparalleled user experience with easy-to-use interfaces where customer can apply from the comfort of her / his home without the hassle of group formation or center meetings, or losing any daily wage. This also helps the Company earn better trust with lenders and allows great reach across geographies.


Jahnavi– What challenges or concerns might arise regarding customer KYC and credit history in the context of digital lending to marginalized segments of society?


Reema– When considering customer KYC (Know Your Customer) and credit history in the context of digital lending to marginalized segments of society, several challenges and concerns can arise such as limited documentation & identification, data security, digital literacy and credit worthiness. These challenges stem from both technical and ethical considerations, and addressing them is crucial for ensuring fair and responsible lending practices.

Jahnavi– In what ways does Arohan’s digital lending approach differ from conventional microfinance methods, particularly in terms of loan application processing, disbursal times, and engagement with customers?


Reema– Arohan Privilege is India’s first preferred and differentiated offering for eligible MFI borrowers, where we aspire to harness the power of technology to provide micro-credit solutions to our Customers digitally. With this initiative, Arohan set foot to make it easier for underserved women to access micro-credit products from any corner of India. Currently, we have on-boarded more than 12,000 Privilege Customers. With this first-in-the-industry offering, Arohan has set the ethos for a paradigm shift in the Indian Microfinance Industry where a loan is disbursed to all eligible Customers in 10 minutes.


In the conventional model, Customer had to visit the respective center to do the loan repayment, this has been taken care of by introducing multiple online payment options for the Customer in the mobile application. In this platform, Arohan has introducing AI based KYC checking and underwriting with flexible loan product.


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