With the onset of the second wave, the uncertainty remains just like the virus. It is therefore important to use the time during the lockdown in internal brainstorming, data analytics, decision making on newer and smoother means of retail acquisition and product development says Mohammad Tarik, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Vidcom Business Solutions Pvt Ltd in an exclusive conversation with Elets News Network (ENN). During the interaction, Tarik also spoke about company’s target of creating 1 Lakh employment by December 2021 in rural India to help underbanked population.
1. Your aim is to empower the underbanked with the power of Banking Services. How are you specifically helping them during the Pandemic when digital is the saviour?
Well, it has been a Demand Supply game for us, even before the pandemic. India has almost 1.5 Lakh ATMs and 1 Lakh Bank Branches that makes it a total of 2.5 Lakh Banking Touchpoints. As against that, we have almost 1.25 Cr Retailers who are present in every cornerof the country. Thanks to the ever growing FMCG sector of India, this number is ever on-the-rise. We are appointing distributors for a well-chosen set of retailers. These distributors have been banking with these retailers for several years, for FMCG Products. We are reaching out to them with our experienced team, which has joint working experience of over a 100 years with distribution based models. Our tech capabilities enable the distributors to onboard the retail touch points fast and as they get monetary incentives for all transactions, it is a win win situation for them. So finally the retailers are able to serve every incoming customer with multiple new products. The unbanked population just has to move to their daily retail store and do their banking. In simple words it’s a joint effort of Distribution and Technology.
2. You have a plan to create 1 lakh employment opportunities in the next six months. Tell us about that and its progress so far.
We have realized that “self-employment” generates employment and this has a chain effect. If I were to give a very small example, if a Thela Puller becomes a small shop owner, he will need someone to help him, and as his shop size and business grows, his requirement for employees will also grow. Our job is precisely the same – converting small businesses into medium sized businesses and splitting medium sized businesses to create several medium sized businesses. This is an employment generation process. Assuming that we are able to work on just 50,000 small businesses out of 1.25 Crore, we should be home with 1 Lakh employees into the Indian ecosystem. So far we have been able to generate 5000+employees. I would like to also mention that the role of media is very critical in this process. You have a phenomenal reach and if you would help us spread the awareness of this model, it will help us shift the goal post towards the scoring direction. Once we hit our target of 1 Lakh, we would like to reset the goal post and start all over again. Please keep supporting us.
3. What is the biggest challenge that you face in ensuring financial inclusion? How do you convert that into an opportunity?
We are aligned with the government in converting our economy into a digital economy. But We still have our parents going to bank branches for digital friendly transactions, we still have people going to pay utility bills and the brick and mortar is certainly here to stay. In a way it is good because even we need physical touch points for the transactions to happen. For our 135 Crore population to be tech enabled (I’m still not savvy), it’ll take a very long time, and by that time the population will go up further).You would have understood that I am talking about tech inclusion. In our business model, we need to drive it as an important lever. But in a way I am very happy that we have a long way to go. You see, if there would be tech enabled banking everywhere, we would cease to be in business. The need of the hour is to take a pro active stance and drive small businesses towards digital economy.
4. How as a company did you handle the uncertainty of the Pandemic? What are the learnings and practices that you would carry ahead in future?
The uncertainty still remains just like the virus, it mutates in a different way every time. So it would be unfair to assume that we have been able to fix it once and for all. Let me share some examples. Whenever there is a lockdown, we cannot exactly forecast, for how long it will remain. As such all our budgets start changing and we do not even know where the Finish Line is. The distributors start losing the returns on the investments and many small merchants are even forced to close business. We have to wait for the lockdown to get over and get our channel partners back into the business with several times their previous zeal. While there are several ways we have adopted, but my favourite one remains the classic “Time Management”. We have to ensure bringing in additional business, by adding more retailers and also by adding more products to all the retailers. So the time that we miss out on, because of pandemic reasons, is spent in internal brainstorming, data analytics and decision making on newer and smoother means of retail acquisition and product development.
5. The second wave has intensified the existing challenges. How are you ensuring sustenance of your services for the retailers/merchants?
Our employees and our distributors have all been impacted adversely by the second wave; not to talk of our retailers, who are huge in numbers and hence are also facing huge challenges. We are reaching out to our merchants on a daily basis through video calls. The age old “beat plan” has now changed into digital beat plan and we realize that if earlier we were able to touch upon 20 retailers in a day through the physical medium, we are now able to touch upon 60 retailers through the digital medium. I would like to explain by taking the analogy of our families. Today, we are not able to visit our family members even if they are in the same city. But it doesn’t mean that we stop caring for them, in fact somehow we care even more since we are not able to see them physically. That is exactly thecase with our retailers, they are our extended family members. We have started caring even more for them. Our tech helps us onboard them, train them and service them even better. If I were to summarise, our frequency of contacts has gone up with them and hence our relationship levels.