NABARD: Fostering Rural Prosperity through Technological Advancements

With its mission to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural development through participative financial and non-financial interventions, innovations, technology and institutional development for securing prosperity, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is on a path to digitalisation

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption. Many companies are accelerating their shifts toward digital-first models—at warp speed. Employees are already working entirely remotely and are agile to some degree. Companies have already launched analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives in their operations. IT teams have delivered at a pace they never have before. And banks have transitioned to remote-sales and service teams and launched digital outreach to customers to make flexible payment arrangements for loans and mortgages.

The heightened pace of digital adoption

According to SB Johnson, Chief General Manager, NABARD, “The recent disruptions brought about by technological advancements and by the COVID-19 pandemic have ‘hastened’ the process of the digital transformation of almost all public-sector organisations. We are aiming to align our strategy to handle a major contingency such as this and to make this (going in for more technology solutions) more a peace-time process rather than fire-fighting acquisitions.”

COVID-19 has influenced digitalisation in many ways. If there is anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us here, it is that adoption of new technology is non-linear. When technology is already available, sometimes it takes only one event to cause a sudden and decisive shift in consumer preferences. As an organisation, NABARD had specific core objectives that they wanted to achieve with their digital transformation initiatives, which included, ease of working within the organisation (be it the CBS/HRMS); a workspace to have greater collaboration to help teams (verticals) function/interact with staff within and stakeholders outside with greater ease and making available more digital resources to enable work-from-anywhere.

Emerging technologies for the next big leap

Exponential technologies like Cloud, digital workspaces, data centre modernisation, cybersecurity, etc., have played a significant role in the success of the digital initiatives at NABARD. These have helped them build a comprehensive services framework. Sharing more details on the same, Johnson says, “NABARD has gone in for a hyper-converged software-defined data centre (on-prem). We are also working on an enhanced/ lighter version of our CBS, improving our security with WAF/WEB Proxy solution, procuring collaboration tools for the entire workforce, Enterprise Content Management for e-case movement, replacement of ageing hardware (switches/routers), enhancing bandwidth, etc.”

As organisation adapt to this new normal, they have laid out an agenda that focuses on four efforts: refocusing and accelerating digital investments in response to evolving customer needs; using new data and AI to improve business operations; selectively modernising technology capabilities to boost development velocity and increasing organisational agility to deliver more quickly. In line with these, NABARD’s next technology adoption plans include adopting technologies to mine their business data for analytics/business intelligence, expand enterprise software to their clients, deliver their financial services in a more modular way, planning to collaborate with tech start-ups, etc.

Further talking about how the organisation is measuring the impact of their digital initiatives, Johnson shares, “One measure is the conservation of our workforce for core functions; removal of redundancies in the work processes; faster turn-around time in routine business activities; and leveraging available business data for policymaking. Some of these have already been achieved in part.”