FinLab BD has awarded three organizations with Tk crore awards for innovative ideas to develop women-friendly solutions to increase institutional participation of women in the country’s financial transactions and to protect micro, small, cottage and medium (CMSME) entrepreneurs. FinLab BD is a joint venture between a2i, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and MicroSave Consulting (MSC). The winners of the ‘Women’s Financial Inclusion Challenge 2022’ and the ‘CMSME Innovation Challenge 2022’ were awarded in a ceremony organized at the auditorium of the Bangabandhu Military Museum in the capital on Monday. Mr. Md. Mezbaul Haque, Executive Director and Spokesperson of Bangladesh Bank, as the Chief Guest, handed over the prizes to the winners. Mr. Ala Uddin Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of MetLife Bangladesh, and Mr. Selim R.F. Hussain, Managing Director of BRAC Bank Limited, were present as special guests. Mr. Md. Mamunur Rashid Bhuiyan, Project Director (Joint Secretary) of a2i, presided over the event.
Three innovators with the best digital solutions for financial inclusion are Dana Fintech, Mutual Trust Bank (MTB), and Apon Wellbeing. A demo check of Tk 75 lakh was awarded to Dana Fintech, Tk 50 lakh and 75 thousand to MTB, and Tk 50 lakh to Apon Wellbeing for innovative ideas. Ideas will be tested and implemented under the supervision of the Bangladesh Bank.
Dana Fintech will develop a credit scoring system through their innovation that will create financial accessibility for small and medium enterprises to get loans digitally. Mutual Trust Bank, through their innovative idea of ‘Daylight Loan’ will create a financial loan model through which small businessmen will get the opportunity to take loans every day. They can take a loan in the morning and repay it before sunset. As a result, small and medium traders can expand their businesses. Meanwhile, Apon Wellbeing will create an omnichannel platform through which garment workers, especially women, will come under financial inclusion. They will be able to purchase and store daily products through this platform in their garment factories. At the same time, they will have the facility of saving and taking loans through it.
Out of 123 innovative ideas from across the country, three were shortlisted for the award by an esteemed panel of judges through several stages, including initial screening, bootcamp, grooming, and a technical evaluation panel.
In the speech of the chief guest, Bangladesh Bank Executive Director and Spokesperson Mr. Md. Mezbaul Haque said, ‘In order to accelerate financial inclusion, it is very important to take innovative initiatives in the financial services sector and develop new fintech products. a2i projects always have a culture of innovation and aim to provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs to take up innovative ventures. Innovation needs to be linked to the country’s ecosystem for financial inclusion. If we can make the payment system cashless, then it will be possible to take citizen services to a more marginal level and bring financial inclusion. If these are implemented, it is possible to fulfill the goal of a smart Bangladesh that the government is dreaming of. Bangladesh Bank is committed to building a non-discriminatory society with the cooperation of all.’
Mr. Ala Uddin Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of MetLife Bangladesh, said, ‘MetLife is committed to contributing to the economic development of Bangladesh through insurance services, manpower, and investment. Access to financial services plays an important role in improving people’s standard of living. That’s why MetLife makes working to expand financial inclusion a priority. Through the FinLab platform, we are delighted to support organizations working on innovative ideas to increase financial inclusion in the country.’
Mr. Md. Mamunur Rashid Bhuiyan, Project Director (Joint Secretary) of a2i, said, ‘Financial Innovation Lab (FinLab BD) is a great initiative, which will accelerate financial inclusion through innovation and piloting of new FinTech products, and I believe that the selected innovators through FinTech Innovation Challenge-22 organized by FinLab BD will develop new financial innovative products. will have opportunities, which will play a special role in financial inclusion of women and financial accessibility of small and medium enterprises. I would like to thank the Regulatory Fintech Facilitation Office of Bangladesh Bank, which is providing overall support for this challenge fund program. I would also like to thank various donors, especially the MetLife Foundation, who are providing financial support to this challenge fund.’
Mr. Selim RF Hussain, Managing Director of BRAC Bank Limited, said, ‘a2i has supported various innovations through digital technology. Thanks to a2i for doing this innovative work. Such arrangements will inspire innovators. More innovative ideas will come in the future. Through this, the backward people of the country will come under the umbrella of financial inclusion. It will be possible to create an inclusive cashless society with the help of technology.
Note that a2i, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and Microsave Consulting (MSC) jointly developed the FinLab BD platform to support startups and entrepreneurs in creating sustainable business models to contribute to the achievement of SDG targets in Bangladesh. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), inaugurated it in October 2021. At present, FinLab BD is operating with the support of the Bangladesh Government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the MetLife Foundation.
Among others, the Digital Financial Service Specialist of a2i, Md. Tahurul Hasan, and the Director of the Financial Inclusion Department of Bangladesh Bank, Md. Nazrul Islam, were present. Besides, senior officials of all ministries/departments related to a2i and financial services, the central bank, the regulatory fintech facilitation office, government and private financial service providers, fintech companies, small and medium industries, and start-up companies were present at the award ceremony.