Smart Bangladesh will thrive on a smart economy

A decade and a half ago, Digital Bangladesh had remained a pipe dream. The idea was dismissed and even mocked by many. Today, we have turned the vision into reality: we have achieved the remarkable milestone of a Digital Bangladesh.

Now is the time to smarten our country all the way. To cement our position as a smart nation, riding the wave of a smart economic landscape, we must upgrade our financial industry. The transformation will be smoother if we bring all our citizens into the fold of non-cash transactions.

The government has set a target to establish a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, built upon four pillars: smart citizen, smart society, smart government, and smart economy. Recognising the pivotal role that finances play in every aspect of our life, I believe our financial industry’s smartisation will catalyse progress across the remaining three pillars, propelling Bangladesh into the league of developed nations.

The country’s financial industry has already gone through sea changes, thanks to MFS providers, led by Nagad, which disrupted the financial market with one after another innovation and expedited financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked people across the country.

According to the World Bank’s Global Findex report-2022, Bangladesh’s financial inclusion has reached 53 percent. Such a robust growth has been possible mainly because of the MFS industry’s outreach to people all over the country.

If we talk about financial transactions and its future, it is all about a journey of digital transformation. The smart economy will evolve around how well we can adopt cashless transactions.

 

The MFS industry, which has witnessed a massive growth riding on advanced technologies and ever-increasing smartphone users, is not just a money transfer tool anymore, rather it has evolved into a platform of different financial services designed to meet people’s day-to-day needs. From mobile recharge to utility bill payments to shopping to EMI payments, all now can be done on your MFS wallet with your fingertips.

But we have limitations, we cannot provide all services on our platform. Likewise, it is not possible for banks to take their services to every nook and corner owing to the high costs of operating a bank branch with the required manpower. In this case, we have an upper hand with our outreach to even the remotest pockets of our country.

Looking at the future – the country’s ongoing transition to a cashless society with a consistent growth in digital transactions, we are going to step up with a blend of mobile money and banking services. The upcoming Nagad Digital Bank will scale the entire bank down to the size of a smartphone and promise the comfort of having each and every banking service at our fingertips.

 

Our customers will no longer have to visit bank branches physically. This is the only way through which we can ensure 100 percent financial inclusion and drastically reduce people’s use of cash.

Payment digitalization is leading to less use of cash in the economy. According to a study in 2019, the country needs about BDT 9,000 crore to manage cash. It means that less cash usage will help the country save more money. The ongoing digital transformation spearheaded by the MFS industry has contributed to people’s growing preference for cashless transactions, coming out of overdependence on physical money. The upcoming Nagad Digital Bank approved by the Bangladesh Bank will come up with quite a few products and services, which will help to further bring down cash usage and give a massive boost to the economic uplift.

What will be the biggest game-changing initiative is digital lending. It is another much-needed disruption in the financial industry that we have planned to ensure people’s easy access to credit, especially for small ventures that are finding it difficult to secure loans in the traditional banking system. In this case, credit rating will be done based on customers’ use patterns. We will give priority to micro and nano loans.

In digital lending, borrowers will apply with a few taps on a smartphone and get money instantly after getting approval. There will be no human and banker interaction. Thus, we can increase credit flows to the SME sector, which will increase employment, productivity and thus, triggering the country’s economic growth, apart from positively impacting livelihoods of many people.

To continuously improve customer experience and make their life easier, we will launch “Buy Now Pay Later” (BNPL) service, which will enable our customers to buy products on credit and repay on later dates. It is a type of lending service that will be useful if you do not have funds available at the moment. The BNPL will be a flexible and convenient payment method and be easily accessible and transparent, thus changing the lending landscape.

We also look to introduce a complete savings platform, thus helping especially rural men and women gain financial solvency. To open a savings or deposit account, our customers, including farmers, workers, small traders and students, will not have to face any hassle of cumbersome paperwork or waiting in a bank or non-bank financial institution.

If we look at our economic landscape, we will find millions of people, especially women remained out of savings opportunities, causing them to feel insecure at times. Savings do not only benefit individuals but also society and the economy as a whole.

The way the digital financial ecosystem is now expanding with all necessary products and services, there will hardly be any necessity to carry cash for financial transactions in the future, thus speeding up the country’s transition towards a cashless society.

There is no denying the fact that a cashless society is our future, and it will play a big role in fulfilling our Smart Bangladesh dream.

Written by-

Tanvir A Mishuk
Fintech entrepreneur and executive chairman and CEO, Nagad Ltd.

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