Client Challenge

Eko Finance is a well-known player in the Indian fintech start-up sector: it has 13 million users, mainly migrant workers from poorer states in the country, that send money home using a network of “cash-in / cash-out” retail agents that are part of the Eko network. Its senior management came up with a bold idea for an app: what if a user who needed small amounts of cash in an emergency situation – for example, the equivalent of a few dollars to take a taxi ride home in the evening, when most Eko agents were closed – could select a nearby user who had extra cash, and receive it in exchange for a person-to-person (P2P) digital money transfer? This ‘Uber-like’ innovation, called Fundu, would match those who needed cash with those who could provide it within a geo-referenced area, thereby helping its users address cash crunches for unplanned scenarios.

Despite having developed a beta app, Eko’s executives had two fundamental questions. Foremost, this was the start-up’s first app, and it was unsure how its mainly low-income customers, most of whom had only recently began using smartphones, would understand, and react to, Fundu. Second, despite Fundu’s promise, users might view it as risky: like the Uber service when it first launched, Eko was concerned users might be hesitant to do a financial transaction with a stranger – especially late at night, or in an unfamiliar location. Digital Disruptions was hired to answer these two questions and provide recommendations on how to reduce perceive risk and make the app more user-friendly.

Digital Disruptions’ Solution

With funding provided by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), the financial inclusion arm of the World Bank, and with an aggressive timeline from Eko to have concrete recommendations for a new and improved Fundu app, we designed a 6-day “product sprint” comprised of focus groups with prospective customers, usability testing interviews, internal ideation meetings, and design thinking prototyping and testing sessions.

Our first recommendation was for Eko to take a more prominent and visible role in “matchmaking” between the two users, the “Cash Receiver” (those who needed cash) and “Cash Provider” (those who could provide it). In the initial interviews, Cash Receiver users expressed reluctance to meet with Cash Provider strangers simply based on their nearby location; during the prototype testing phase, the same users reacted positively to the concept of Eko “suggesting” a Cash Provider counterpart, while also allowing the Receiver to select others. Another well-received prototype was for both parties to filter by key criteria, especially by level of familiarity (e.g., existing friends or family).

The second recommendation was to broader Fundu’s overall value proposition. The app was initially conceived for “unplanned” scenarios for Cash Receivers, but through initial interviews, users indicated that this tended to be rare, and if it did occur, could rely on friends to meet cash needs. Through brainstorming sessions with senior management and subsequent prototyping, it was recommended to position Fundu as the “everyday” digital wallet for both cash-in (i.e., deposits) and cash-out (i.e., withdrawals) transactions, and target both Cash Receiver and Cash Provider segments.

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