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Shaktikanta Das, Hardeep Singh Puri key speakers at ET Financial Inclusion Summit

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Reserve (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das and housing and minister of petroleum and natural gas, and housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri would be the key speakers at this week’s ET Financial Inclusion Summit, which is set to help create a national template for democratising access to formal financing and assist New Delhi in achieving its social goal of poverty reduction. Top decision makers, including UIDAI CEO Saurabh Garg, National Payments Corp of India’s CEO Dilip Asbe, IndusInd Bank CEO Sumant Kathpaliaand Bandhan Bank founder Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, will share their ideas on deepening financial inclusion at the twoday virtual conclave. The thought-leadership event comes at a time when both industry and government are seeking to bolster a nascent broader recovery, helping ensure sustainable employment for citizens most vulnerable to economic shocks, such as the one led by the second wave.

Debashsish Panda, secretary, Department of Financial Services, will discuss the government’s commitment and plans to enlarge the digital pay ments footprint and policy choices to quicken the pace of technology adoption, especially when the

sector is expanding in both size and scope.

Governor Das, who pioneered the Financial Inclusion Index for India, will inaugurate the event on July 15 at 3 pm through a virtual address, detailing the RBI’s steps toward pushing the agenda of inclusion — and plans for the future.

As India adopts a digital economy at breakneck speed, there is a need for regulators, the government, banks, fintech firms and other stakeholders to come together and establish an ecosystem that would propel the economy toward achieving its $5-trillion milestone. To enable a confluence of thoughts from various streams, the event will have nearly a dozen separate discussion sessions and fireside chats with experts, who would share their experiences and identify hurdles that must be overcome.

Rural consumption and women’s empowerment are crucial for ensuring the transmission of financing benefits beyond urban bailiwicks. Over the years, several projects such as Jan Dhan bank accounts or direct benefit transfers (DBT) have sought to empower the marginalised. Still, a lot more needs to be done.

Experts such as Kotak Mahindra Bank’s joint MD Dipak Gupta, NPCI’s Asbe and IndusInd’s Kathpalia would dwell on some of these issues during sessions titled ‘Taking Digital Banking to Rural India’ and ‘Empowering Indian Women Through Financial Literacy’.

While financial inclusion has been an aspiration for a long time, the time appears to be now ripe due to the presence of multiple enablers — particularly cutting-edge technology.

Over the past five years, fintech companies have shortened the lead time to take some form of formal financing to the hinterland, often bypassing perceived barriers such as consumption or income thresholds and physical presence of banks or intermediaries.

Yet, given the vulnerability of a section of the population, such fintech penetration could also be considered a threat — not only to legacy banks but also the very citizens ostensibly being helped by disruptive technologies.

Those that disrupted the ecosystem, like Harshil Mathur of RazorPay or Rajeev Ahuja of RBL Bank that transformed itself into a new-age bank shedding its staid rural image, and HDFC Bank’s Anjani Rathor would discuss whether formal legacy banking and nimble fintechs could co-exist.

If financial inclusion backed by a digital backbone has to become feasible, the essential requirement is connectivity. A key summit panel would provide the framework on the ‘Role of Fast and Reliable Internet in Financial Inclusion’, covering the crucial aspect of infrastructure needed to undergird one of India’s most ambitious goals of achieving social equity.

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