MUMBAI: A. Little. World. Private Limited ("ALW"), leveraging new generation technologies to enable financial inclusion at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), announced the closing of INR 287.4 Million in sries B funding led by Bellwether Microfinance Fund Pvt. Ltd. and India Financial Inclusion Fund, both managed by Hyderabad-based caspian advisors.
Legatum Ventures, which led the Series A investment in ALW, also invested in the new round. These investments, facilitated by Intellecap, will help the Company achieve its ambitious growth plans to set up a technology-driven 'Bank-in-a-Box' in every village and facilitate rural India's integration into the mainstream financial sector. The investment will also enable ALW to improve capacity and build its product portfolio.
By using mobile networks, ALW leverages low-cost technology to integrate micro banking with a brand-new multi-bank payment network branded ZERO. The ZERO platform converts new generation Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile phones into secure and self-sufficient bank branches. These no-frill accounts are based on biometric customer identification and enable a large variety of transactions in villages. The ZERO platform has been deployed in live operations by 14 banks - including major public sector banks, private and regional rural banks. "ALW provides a popular end-to-end technology driven platform for branchless banking, with plug and play access for banks to rollout their services and increase their outreach. This allows banking, insurance and other such services to reach the unbanked," said Anurag Gupta, ALW's Founder and Chief Technology Officer.
This year, along with its affiliate not-for-profit Section 25 Company ZERO Microfinance and Savings Support Foundation, ALW crossed the 1 million clients mark and was chosen by State Bank of India (SBI) as its preferred partner to increase banking services outreach in rural areas through the Business Correspondent model.
The SBI tie-up also provides access to Post Offices, one of the largest networks at the national level. The ZERO platform currently enrolls more than 20,000 customers each day, and aims to reach a customer base of 5 million accounts by the end of fiscal year 2008-09. ALW also recently announced the appointment of Sonjoy Mohanty, an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience scaling up businesses from Bharti Airtel to Kerala Ayurvedic Hospitals, as its CEO.
"We are extremely confident that India's unbanked will become active participants in its growing economy through our ZERO platform and are grateful for Bellwether and IFIF for their support," said Sonjoy Mohanty, Chief Executive Officer of ALW. "Along with Legatum Ventures, their strategic support provides the necessary capital required to create a powerful distribution channel for financial and non-financial transactions spanning geographies, categories and institutions."
Commenting on the investment, Mona Kachhwaha, Director of Investments at India Financial Inclusion Fund said, "Through innovative use of technology A. Little. World. offers a fresh and highly effective solution to financial exclusion. We are delighted to partner with ALW and provide low-cost, inclusive technologies to banks and MFIs and believe that the time has come for all financial institutions to embrace its innovative model to extend their services to under-served clients."