We help banks stay on the grid: Sarvatra Technologies' Mandar Agashe

Sarvatra Technologies’ PaaS solution Founder-managing director Mandar Agashe
Sarvatra Technologies’ PaaS (platform as a service) solution has helped drive payment banking during the Covid-19 lockdown, especially in rural India. Its plug-and-play model has enabled co-operative banks, in particular, to keep their payment systems humming. Founder-managing director Mandar Agashe spoke to . Edited excerpts:

On Sarvatra and co-operative banks

These banks were not part of the real-time gross settlement system; and did not have the manpower to manage a complex payments network. They were not aware of the software nor had the infrastructure to keep it updated and secure. We ensured that even during Covid-19, their payments’ network remained unaffected. The mobile vans, micro-ATMs and the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) we gave them has enabled these bank employees to visit their customers and to provide them accessibility. Especially, in remote areas like Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland, parts of Uttar Pradesh and even Maharashtra. Customers could access their Jan-Dhan direct benefit transfer accounts through our AePS service.

On Sarvatra and competition

Fifty-five per cent of the banks are on our platform. Even Google Pay and Truecaller Pay are on it. As for competition, you have C-Edge (a joint-venture between TCS and the State Bank of India), and also Infrasoft. We have multiple switches across platforms which allow banks to plug-and-play like the Immediate Payment Service, Unified Payments Interface, Bharat Bill Payment System or the AePs. We are the pioneers for all the switches. During the YES Bank crisis, PhonePe and BharatPe came on to Sarvatra’s platform within 24 hours.

On how the switching system works: 

Banks have a core-banking system to which all branches are connected, but this is only for accounting. The transactional software is the “switch” and banks need it for functional cards or ATMs. It may be an electronic funds transfer, IMPS or the UPI switch. Once the bank becomes a member of the switch, Sarvatra buys the switches and provides affordable banking, especially to co-operative banks. They can then issue cards to customers and store transactional data, allowing them to use any ATM in India. Now, even if a bank’s branches are not accessible, customers can withdraw money or transact online.

On Sarvatra’s journey

When I started, only 50 banks issued debit cards though there were 2,000 licenced banks (from state-run to co-operative banks). Many were doing only branch banking and did not have ATMs. We provided the infrastructure to centralise systems and participate in the national payment network. Earlier, it was difficult for small rural and co-operative banks, given the huge capital expenditure involved in owning and managing this infrastructure.

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