Vikram Akula to Acquire 26 % Stake in Financial Inclusion Start-up VAYA
Pune (Dec. 10, 2014): Vikram Akula, the founder and former Chairperson of SKS Microfinance, who was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, has been appointed Chairman of the financial inclusion start-up VAYA Finserv Pvt. Ltd. Akula will also take a 26% stake in VAYA.
VAYA is a business correspondent which facilitates savings and loans for self-help groups of women on behalf of banks. The company was founded by former SKS Microfinance executives and opened its first branch in July, and now has 23 branches with 183 employees across six districts of Eastern Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka.
“Now that my 3 year non-compete period is over, I was looking to get back to financial inclusion,” said Akula. “I chose to join VAYA because it is focused on under-banked districts, it has a great team, and it uses anext-generation technology platform that will become the future of financial inclusion.” VAYA is the first business correspondent to use tablet banking in the field. The field officers tablets connect to a centralized online system that has the ability to interface seamlessly with core banking systems, to ensure daily cash settlement with partner banks.
“We have the advantage of not having any legacy systems, so we could design a bank compliant process and system framework right from the outset,” said Surya Kumar, the M.D. of VAYA who used to serve as the Head of Technology at SKS Microfinance and who has been a consultant for BRAC, the world’s largest microfinance institution, which is based in Bangladesh. “In addition, as soon as the regulator permits inter-operability for mobile payments, we will be able to offer our customers the convenience of a mobile banking platform, similar to what we see in countries like Kenya and the Phillipines,” added Kumar.
Akula commented that VAYA is intending to apply for a bank license. “I think that both the creation of small banks as well payments banks is an extremely progressive step on the part of the RBI, and this will certainly help enhance financial inclusion. We are working with our advisors on preparing a small bank license application.” The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had released final guidelines for small banks and payment banks on 27 November and sought applications by 16 January from those interested in applying for a small bank licence.“While VAYA has a robust plan to grow as a BC, a small bank licence will assist us in furthering financial inclusion by providing loans to small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and other unorganized sector entities” said Vikram Akula. “We also have an option to apply for a payments bank license,” added Akula.
In terms of strategy, VAYA is focused on under-banked areas. “We rely on RBI data on under-banked districts and our expansion strategy is to fill those gaps,” said Kumar.
Aside from Akula, other investors in VAYA include individual high-net investors, the SKS Trusts and VAYA employees.
Akula has a B.A. degree from Tufts, an M.A. from Yale, a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and was a Fulbright Scholar. He has worked with McKinsey & Company and the Worldwatch Institute. He was named the Ernst & Young (Start Up and Business Transformation) Entrepreneur of the Year in India, the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, the Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year in India, and was an Echoing Green Public Service Fellow.He is the author of A Fistful of Rice; My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability, published by Harvard Business Press.