With a rural population primarily dependent on farming for income, and with low-to-moderate levels of education, much of India experiences volatile incomes and relatively low inclusion in formal financial systems, including mobile money. However, there are clear opportunities for financial service providers to better meet the needs of the Indian population, including by ensuring terms and conditions of products are tailored to specific segments’ needs, such as by reducing the complexity of services and increasing reliance on in-person interactions.
Likely due in part to their high reliance on farming as a source of income, Indians experience relatively high income volatility: less than half the population (40%) knows how much they will earn when they wake up each day, and a similar percentage report earning a consistent amount on a quarterly basis, meaning that more than half the population experiences some uncertainty about how they will make ends meet.
This volatility likely contributes to some of the financial challenges faced by the Indian population, including the fact that less than half (48%) have a plan to pay for expenses, slightly below cross-country averages, and just over half report that they are “prepared to spend now and let the future take care of itself.” Across the population, consumers face the greatest difficulty paying for medical costs, followed by paying off debts and school fees. Moreover, about a third reports that they would not be able to raise emergency funds, and just over half (55%) believe they don’t earn enough to save.
Formal Financial Services
Less than half of the population has a secondary education or above, making it perhaps unsurprising that about half (51%) find financial services confusing or complex (similar to the average across countries) and nearly half believe that banks do not care about serving people like them. This likely helps explain the fact that only 37% of Indians have an account at a formal financial institution, and that Indians have virtually no reliance on formal financial services in the case of a financial emergency. Yet more than half the population (57%) reports they would trust banks to safeguard their savings, and they would be most likely to invest a potential financial windfall in a bank.
There are also potential opportunities for an expansion of mobile money: while just 8%
of the population has a mobile money account, Indians are relatively well-connected technologically, with near ubiquitous personal phone ownership (~one-third of which are smart phones) and relatively high social media and internet usage.
At the same time, personal connections remain key; the majority of consumers prefer to receive financial advice in person, and family remains the most important source of financial information, while trust is low in information provided by both informal and formal financial institutions, suggesting another opportunity for greater relationship- and trust-building by FSPs with the Indian population.