I am Nikunja Bhandari, co-founder of Nepal Language and Research Solutions (NLRS). NLRS is the one of the pioneer localization and research firms in Nepal working to contribute towards removing barriers to knowledge. We have been working with various national and international organizations to help simplify their knowledge base make it more available to the local people and helping provide researched data to stimulate informed decisions on development.
Nepal made a significant progress in the terms of banking and financial developing in the last two decades. The number of banks and financial institutions (BFIs) went up with more than 25 nationally operating commercial banks, more than 100 development banks operating targeting various regions of the nation as of now. Despite this development, a major chunk of Nepali population is still out of banking coverage and basic saving and lending schemes to them is still a dream. Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal, estimates that more than 40 percent of Nepali population is still out of banking coverage forcing them to pursue the traditional approaches of saving and lending. Especially among the rural and poor population, the landlords and moneylenders are the only source of seeking money upon need while saving money hasn't been an affordable option. The local moneylenders' made viscous cycle with exorbitant interest rates results in deepening poverty thereby making the population further excluded.
One of the major communities forced to depend upon the traditional moneylenders is of Nepali migrant workers seeking job especially in Gulf countries and Malaysia. While Nepali migrant workers continue to fill the labor gaps, Nepal has become one of the highest receivers of remittance, the third largest recipient of remittances in terms of percentage contribution to GDP covering 29.2 percent of the same. The contrary, their access to finance to cover their migration costs in their local places seems feeble, while in some cases, the moneylenders are found charging interest rates as high as 120 percent.
Thus, we envisioned a project to leverage the competition among the BFIs while also making it the banking services more available to the undeserved. The project's main activity is to develop and operate a financial information portal: www.bittabazaar.com.
Bittabazaar is an online information portal that visitors with the information about all the financial products, offered by banks and financial institutions of Nepal. The comprehensive portal has the compiled dataset on every bank operating in Nepal with their loans, saving schemes and other services they offer. Here, the visitors can search for the product of their type and compare among the banks based on the interest rates, amount offered (in case of loan) and processes and charges. Further, the website also provides the processing services, where visitors can authorize the website to process financial product of their choice on their behalf. The website also features ATM and bank branch locator, financial calculators and other general information on financial literacy.
Every service and information provided Bittabazaar.com provides doesn't cost anything except that of processing charge. The processing charge is not charged for the migrant workers and their families. That makes, every service and information provided by the website comes absolutely with no cost to the migrant workers.
We have released the website in beta version and I request to have a look at it (please click here). We are having discussions with banks and central bank in Nepal to have their ownership in the initiative. In the near future, we would add insurance and other financial services to our website. More importantly, we are working hard to make the website into Nepali language with a mobile app so as to increase the coverage among the rural Nepali population (Nepal's mobile phone coverage is close to 100 percent).
The bigger dream we have is to leverage the competition among the remittance companies in Nepal so that the money sent by the migrant workers to their families would incur less cost transferring. We are working with the authorities to introduce a system of 'Remit Card' which would work with a PIN for every individual customer. These cards will help the recipients receive the money sent by their loved ones from any remittance company or banks, regardless of which company has been selected to be sent. Further, the integration of remittance money into channeled banking system will help increase productive use of remittances.
- Nikunja Bhandari