While India has made substantial progress towards financial inclusion, much remains to be done to ensure everyone utilizes, and benefits from, increased access to the formal financial system. In particular, despite increases in bank account ownership, account usage remains low. This problem is especially pronounced in rural and semi-urban areas, where few bank branches operate. India has responded by promoting "Cash-in, Cash-out" banking agents.
This trial tests whether a composite intervention focusing on banking agents increases account usage at scale. The agents in this study belong to a single banking agent network company, and they work across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The intervention consists primarily of providing savings calendars to the agents to provide to their customers. These agents are also trained to explain the calendar to customers, to encourage customer savings, and to track distribution of the calendars. Thirdly, agents receive SMS messages that remind them about the content of the training. Finally, managers who supervise these agents receive similar training and SMS reminders. We randomized a sample of 794 agents across treatment and control, with 402 agents assigned to the treatment group and 392 to the control. In the aggregate, we distributed a total of 64,000 calendars to the treatment agents, who were asked to distribute at least half the calendars to women customers. We will evaluate the impact of this intervention on deposits, net deposits (deposits minus withdrawals), and transactions at the level of the banking agents, at both 7 weeks (when India's lockdown to combat COVID-19 began) and three months after training.