India’s first ‘digital village’ where families fall back on e-banking for everything

Customer Manilal Prajapati pays shop owner Pankhi Patel via SMS in Akodara, Gujarat. Akodara is India’s first ‘digital village’ where families fall back on e-banking for everything. (HT Photo)

His countrymen may be fretting and fuming chasing scarce 100-rupee banknotes, but Manilal Prajapati, 45, is without a care in the world.

A cable operator in the village of Akodara, some 90kms from Ahmedabad, Prajapati on Friday bought wheat flour and a packet of potato chips for Rs 200 from the local grocer with just few clicks on his mobile phone. His phone is linked to his bank account and money was instantly transferred to the account of the grocer, Pankil Patel.

While tremors of the Centre’s demonetization move resulting in acute scarcity of cash are felt across the country, Akodara is an oasis of calm. It is India’s first ‘digital village’ where all families fall back on e-banking for everything – from buying milk to biscuits – through their mobile phones.

Prajapati, for that matter, collects his monthly cable connection rents in a similar fashion. All that his subscribers have to do is to send an SMS to the bank after typing 3 followed by Prajapati’s mobile number, the amount to be transferred and the last six digits of their own account numbers and the amount is credited in no time.

Sabar Dairy’s milk collection center at Akodara uses a special software to keep account of milk supplied by local farmers. Payment is done through e-banking on the every tenth day. (HT Photo)

“We have got used to e-banking and hardly deal in cash and therefore the notes scarcity has not hit us,” says Patel, the grocer. For anything above Rs 10, his collections are through e-banking.

“Like the rest of Indians, we are not worried about depositing or exchanging cash. All the adults here have bank accounts linked to their Aadhar numbers. As all the transactions at markets, milk cooperatives, shops and even vegetable vendors here are cashless, we withdraw cash only when we have to go outside the village,” says J S Patel, a farmer.

Even the local dairy cooperative has stopped making cash payments since the past one year. It transfers money to the accounts of the farmers, saving the administration the trouble of handling huge volumes of cash.

The village with a population of 1,200 was adopted by the ICICI Bank as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign. It has transformed the village into one with few parallels.

“Unlike other bank branches in the rest of the country, there is no rush here. Its business as usual for us,” says bank manager Pratik Panchal.



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