Afloat with a mobile wallet

A three-hour boat ride away from Itna is Khaliajuri sub-district. There, the villages are small stranded islands and only raised houses manage to stay above the onrush of monsoon waters. Himadri Sarkar is a resident of one of these islands. She was introduced to bKash around two years ago.  Other than using the most basic services, Himadri has turned her bKash wallet into a savings account. “When we dealt with hard cash, there were no savings. I could not keep tabs on our expenses and money just seemed to slip away. Now I can save,” she says about her deposit scheme with BRAC Microfinance.

During monsoon, her husband goes fishing to distant areas and sends her the daily income through bKash. She also receives BDT 10,000 in remittance from her brother in Oman. Himadri had never received any money as remittance before bKash since the closest bank is almost four hours away. With fast and easy financial services through bKash, Himadri has managed to take control of her finances and change her family’s situation for the better. She now has a booming poultry business and has also managed to buy a boat for the family with her savings.

bKash saves the day

A 36-year mother and a BRAC health worker in Itna sub district, Nazma Akter will forever remain grateful to bKash for helping out in an emergency. She has adopted mobile money in many facets of her life, both professionally and personally.  As a health worker, she was first introduced to bKash when BRAC began paying its frontline staff through their mobile wallets. Today when she goes from door to door through villages selling medicines, she never fails to mention that clients can pay through bKash.  She is also using bKash to aid her ‘homegrown’ tailoring business. Her customers pay through bKash and she delivers dresses to their doorsteps.

Six months ago, Nazma’s 10-year old daughter fell down and broke her leg and the medical bills piled up. But she managed to collect money from her relatives in Dhaka quickly through bKash, which would have been a daunting task otherwise. Nazma cannot appreciate bKash enough whenever she talks about her daughter.

MFS for freedom

Kaniz Fatema takes her 7-year old brother Rifat to school each day in Rajshahi’s Birostail village. Her businessman father bought her a smartphone when she passed her higher secondary school exams. Kaniz was the first to open a mobile wallet in her family when BRAC made school payments through bKash compulsory. She discovered further usefulness of bKash while still in college when she used to go for private tuition after sundown. The mobile wallet proved to be a safe store for her money, as Kaniz paid her tutor through bKash.

She could never have guessed that her own financial freedom would start with a mobile phone. A year on, there are a total of four bKash accounts in her household and her family has embraced all that mobile money has to offer. Fatema thinks she can do more with bKash in future. “bKash is introducing new features regularly. People also pay utility bills from their mobile wallets. I think there is a lot more to do,” she said when asked if she would do more with mobile money.

At the tip of the fingers

Azmira Khatun is a busy parent. She takes her eight-year-old son to Birostail primary school in Rajshahi every day, cooks for her family and also keeps tabs on the monthly household expenditures. She was introduced to bKash more than a year ago when BRAC schools initiated mobile payments. With the help of a BRAC field official, Azmira has learned to use bKash. Every month, she pays her BDT 300 savings installments from her mobile wallet.

Azmira was a novice user just a year back when she opened her own mobile wallet. She now believes that bKash makes life a lot easier.  To her, the most exciting bKash feature is the airtime recharge and the provision to pay electricity bills. “Earlier, we had to stand in long lines to pay the bills. Now I can just do it from home.” Azmira thinks that bKash services are on the rise and one day she will be able to use bKash for most of her financial transactions on a regular basis.

Digital finance brings predictability

Hashi Ara is one of BRAC’s 23,078 teachers who get salary directly in their mobile wallets. She was introduced to bKash about a year back. “I learned it within days. It was easy. I had been using mobile phones for three years but couldn’t use bKash before.” Asked why not, she said that there had been no one to show her. When BRAC began paying salary through bKash, Hashi Ara was able to learn everything from the project staff. With a husband who is a truck-helper and a toddler son, Hashi Ara was always worried about managing her family’s finances. Her brother sent money through informal channels because banks were daunting. But that also made her finances unpredictable.

Now with her mobile wallet, uncertainty has been removed from the equation. The 27-year old receives around BDT 20,000 in remittance from her brother in Singapore every month. Using her new smartphone, Hashi Ara is happy to experiment with the bKash app and realises that the potentials are endless. “I saw some stores with barcode payments. I think I’ll buy something with the app.”