Transforming Lives Through FinTech

by BTM

Sun, 03 March 2024

Seema Prem FIA Technology Services

The remarkable dedication of engineer Seema Prem, has led to the creation of FIA Technology Services, a company addressing financial inclusion in India and beyond. In this interview, she sheds light on FIA’s work to bring financial services and security to millions of underprivileged people.

Ms. Prem’s career began with VPN Mobile, during the early days of mobile technology in India. This experience fuelled her passion for implementing technological solutions to real-world challenges. After pursuing further education and work experience in the United States, a pivotal moment during her research on financial systems sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. 

Recognising the widespread issue of financial exclusion, particularly in populous countries like India, Pakistan and China, Seema saw an opportunity to make a difference. She submitted her idea to the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition where it received acclaim and finished runner-up, encouraging her to return to India and establish FIA. 

FIA’s mission is to empower unbanked and underbanked populations by providing access to financial services through innovative solutions. “Unbanked are individuals who have never had a bank account, while the underbanked are those who may have accounts but do not fully utilise banking services,” she explains. 

“In collaboration with regulated entities like banks, FIA sets up banking outlets in remote and underserved areas, appointing local entrepreneurs to manage them. In total, we operate around 35,000 banking centres across India. Through these outlets, individuals can open bank accounts and conduct transactions securely using biometric authentication. 

FIA, as a FinTech company, leverages technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), to enhance its services. AI-driven algorithms enable predictive risk management and improve productivity, ensuring efficient operations despite rapid growth. 

“Building trust among the target demographic was a gradual process, but FIA’s efforts, coupled with support from the Reserve Bank of India and the government, contributed to the success of what is now India’s largest financial inclusion programme,” she explains. 

Ms. Prem emphasised the transformative impact of financial inclusion beyond economic empowerment. Access to banking services enhances nutritional intake, reduces inequalities and empowers women within households. By focusing on women’s inclusion, FIA not only promotes gender equality but also drives financial resilience. 

Regarding her sense of social responsibility, Ms. Prem believes her upbringing as an army child instilled a passion to help others and influenced FIA’s commitment to addressing broader social issues. “As a child, I lived in some of the most inaccessible terrains of the country, and often on the borders of countries. There, you get to see a lot of inequality and I think subconsciously that has influenced me significantly,” she believes. “Furthermore, I love travelling and my job also gives me an opportunity to travel across the lengths and breadths of India, which has been phenomenal as well.” 

As for future plans, FIA’s initiatives extend to climate resilience, where they are exploring solutions to mitigate the impact of climate disruptions on vulnerable communities. Through strategic partnerships, including collaborations with organisations like the World Bank and IDEO, FIA aims to expand its reach and develop intuitive products tailored to the needs of underserved populations. 

As well as the underprivileged, FIA has contributed significantly to the lives of women in India. Originally, only five percent of the company’s banking agents were women, but now this figure stands at 35 percent with a goal of reaching 50 percent in the near future. 

It has led to her being recognised by other powerful women. Just recently, Ms. Prem was interviewed by Melinda Gates after FIA was selected to be part of the United Nations General Assembly for its social impact work, something she is very proud of.

“Of course, we don’t do our work for awards, but it acts as a great motivator for the team. Furthermore, if these events are being recognised by other leaders and people around the globe, it will only help to spread awareness of our work and facilitates us to help more people,” she concludes.