Chase for India’s rural rupee inspires tech innovations

Chief Regulatory Officer at CSE Renuke Wijayawardhane presenting the listing certificate to Executive Chairperson at Renuka Hotels Shibani Thambiayah

NEW DELHI, December 7, 2010 (AFP) – India’s hunger for new technology is as sharp in its countless small villages as in its shiny office towers or shopping malls — and businesses are waking up to an area of massive potential growth. Specific designs being aimed at Indian villagers include a mobile phone cash-transfer system, robust low-energy refrigerators and a clever twist on the humble kitchen stove.

Household cook Shivnath Yadav, 35, told AFP that he regularly sends funds via his mobile phone to his mother in the tiny village of Gajolpaharpur in Bihar, one of the country’s poorest states.

“It’s so easy to do this, and knowing that it will reach my mother soon relieves me of any tension,” he said at the Jai Janta convenience store in south Delhi where he completes the transaction.

Two brothers, Abhishek and Abhinav Sinha, used a World Bank grant in 2009 to set up Eko Financial Services, which provides mobile banking services by using such small shops as de facto banking outlets.

When a customer wants to send funds to a relative, they deposit cash with a shopkeeper who dials a code to get the transaction cleared by Eko. Eko then alerts the bank to transfer the money to a shop in the relative’s village, whe