Most Influential Projects 2022

38 Open-for-All Digital Ecosystem

Open for All Digital Ecosystem

For empowering even the smallest Indian companies with the fintech tools they need

Banking shouldn’t just be for the big guys. But credit constraints mean that’s often the reality for India’s fledgling entrepreneurs, particularly the country’s 3 million women running micro businesses. 

Looking to make financial services more inclusive, India’s ICICI Bank created a digital ecosystem specifically for owners of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Launched in April, it aims to make business banking radically easier for individuals with thin credit histories, as well as give anyone—whether they open an account or not—access to financial services from a streamlined platform. 

The potential impact is significant: MSMEs account for nearly 30 percent of India’s GDP and employ about 60 percent of the country’s workforce, according to a 2022 report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India and Crisil Ltd. 

“The MSME segment forms the backbone of the Indian economy,” says Anup Bagchi, executive director, ICICI Bank. “They are keen to adopt digital solutions to simplify their way of doing business so that they can focus more on growth.” 

The project’s origins stretch back to 2019, when ICICI leaders set out to identify the major financial challenges stifling Indian MSMEs. Their research revealed five pervasive pain points: lending needs, networking, compliance, banking transactions and cross-border import and export services. The bank then launched a series of pilot projects to take aim at those barriers, which included digitizing the account acquisition process, adapting the mobile banking platform for small business users and enabling access to unsecured loans.

Rolling those upgrades into one platform helps ensure microentrepreneurs not only have access to the tools they need but also understand which ones to make use of in the first place. Bank leaders believe it will level the playing field for millions of MSMEs across India, while tapping into their natural affinity for digital tools.

“MSMEs understand the benefits that technology brings,” Bagchi says. “They’re eager for solutions that will improve efficiency and boost their business.”