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#2 | Ratna: Millennials

By Soumitro Datta & Dharmesh Ba

Short Story

Ratna is a 28-year-old woman who grew up in Pune and is currently residing and working in Bengaluru for an IT firm. Although she is originally from Karnataka, she has spent a larger part of her life in Pune and is more fluent in Marathi than her mother tongue, Kannada. She navigates her finances with inputs from her mother, who is a branch manager in an insurance company and also seeks guidance from relatives, bank representatives, friends, and colleagues as well. She also adapts to new technologies and assists her mother in doing the same. This story is an attempt to capture her personal finance journey in relation to technology.

Image credits: iStockPhoto

Expenses

Ratna has used her financial independence to cultivate a balanced lifestyle — although the bulk of her expenses go towards basic amenities and utilities, she has also invested in her hobbies and occasionally attends social gatherings with friends and colleagues.

S: What is your monthly expenditure?
R: My biggest chunks of expenditure are Rent, Food and Transport and then there are things like Internet and Electricity bills and then either on small purchases for the house and myself or going out with other people.

She anticipates additional expenses and regulates her spending accordingly-

S: Do you have any other monthly expenses?
R: If I have money left over maybe I decide to spend it on something I (want, but) haven’t bought…or I let it be in my savings account if I anticipate a bigger expenditure in the coming month like travel, ticket bookings or something like that.

Banking

  • Ratna’s parents opened her first bank account with the Bank of Baroda, where her mother also had an account —

S: When did you open your first bank account?
R: I was in 10th grade, I had some money which came as gifts that people (mostly family members) gave, so my parents wanted to put all that money in one account. Secondly, they wanted me to start getting used to a bank account and understand the process of opening a bank account and managing it.

This has been her primary account at two different stages-

S: What did you do with your first account? Did you withdraw any of the money you deposited?
R: To keep the account active we would do debits — small amounts from time to time but I never really spent from it. When I went (to Bengaluru) for my post graduation , my mother would put money in that account for me to use for my daily expenses and that was when I used that account most actively.

  • Ratna opened her second bank account with the State Bank of India, which was recommended by her undergraduate institute to its students —

S: Why did you open a second bank account? Where and when did you open it?
R: My second account was opened during my under graduation because it was mandatory to have an SBI account as per the college. When I completed my degree I got it transferred to a branch closer my house (in Pune). These days my mother manages this account for me.

  • Her third and final account was opened with HDFC Bank. This is presently her primary account-

S: Which bank account do you presently use most actively?
R: The HDFC account I opened when I got my first job — it was the mandatory salary account that they (my first employer) opened, but I continued having the same account and I’m still using it.

Banking is not an exclusively online, remote experience for her — she has visited her local HDFC bank branch a number of times for a variety of reasons and has cultivated a relationship with the personnel there —

S: Do you visit your bank branch periodically?
R: Not periodically…but there is this lady I have gotten to know in my local branch because every time I visit I got to her…once to get a new cheque book, once because of an issue I had with my debit card — it had stopped working and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what the online process was and the branch was very close to my office, so I just walked to the branch to ask about it. I have also gone to talk about my savings and discuss investment options and once I visited the branch to collect my credit card.

Payment Modes

  • Ratna is comfortable with multiple modes of making payments —
  • She is flexible, responding to the preferences of people and situations across her transactions —

S: How do you pay your rent?
R: My owner is comfortable with Net Banking so he asked me to transfer the rent that way and so I do.

S: Why do you pay for your Yoga classes with cash?
R: My yoga instructor asked for a cash payment. She does not take any other. So I pay her with cash.

S: How often do you withdraw cash?
R: I withdraw cash around once a month. My primary cash expenditure is — sometimes I buy stuff from grocery stores where they either don’t accept cards or they have issues with digital payments like if I want to pay by Google Pay and they don’t have internet so I like to have cash handy (with me).

Payment Apps: Usage

  • Under the influence of her friends, Paytm Wallet was introduced to Ratna and turned into her gateway to mobile-based payments.
  • One can infer that the relative ease of using UPI based apps (enabled by direct transfers to and from bank accounts) coupled with their relatively leaner interfaces nudged her into favouring them over the former.
  • She performs all her transactions on a single UPI app — although she has tried PhonePe and Google Pay, she prefers using the later.

S: Which Payment Apps do you have on your phone?
R: I have Google Pay, Phone Pe — which I think I have used just once and Paytm — there was money in the Wallet which I was using until recently, but the money is now over and I don’t plan on continuing it because I am comfortable using G Pay.

S: How did you get to know about these apps?
R: Mostly through friends.

S: Why do you prefer using Google Pay to PhonePe?
R: I tried PhonePe once but I didn’t enjoy it so much — it felt a bit cluttered and I was slightly overwhelmed.

  • Her preference for Google Pay is reinforced by the fact that although she had been re-charging her phone online on different platforms, she has also started performing this activity consistently on Google Pay —

Payment Apps: Security

Although Ratna does not have a precise idea of how UPI apps work and she has had one negative experience while using it, she feels that Google Pay is safe to use, having taken certain precautionary measures.

S: Do you have an idea of how UPI-based Payment apps work?
R: No

S: You have used 2 UPI apps — which bank account have you linked to them?
R: My HDFC account for both apps

S: How many UPI id’s do you have?
R: One

S: Do you feel Google Pay is safe to use?
R: Yes

S: Have you had any trouble while using the app?
R: I got stuck using Google Pay once where for some reason no transaction was happening and I didn’t know why. So I googled searched ‘Google Pay customer care’ and I got a number. I called up and I realised from the tone that he was speaking to me that he was not a customer care guy so I cut the line.

S: Has this made you apprehensive about using the app?
R: Yes, sometimes I do feel it is probably not 100% secure, so I try not to keep too much liquid money in my savings account

S: Did the issue you were facing resolve itself?
R: Yes so I think it was an issue with their server or something so I think it got resolved after a few days

Savings and Investments

An ample salary since her first job and a measured approach to spending has enabled Ratna to save consistently since she started working. This has given her the opportunity to gradually ramp up her investment strategies as per her requirements and availability of surplus income —

S: How much do you save in a month?
R: Of whatever I (presently) earn I try and save 20–40% at least.

S: How do you ensure that you are able to save that much?
R: I tried keeping a written record of my expenses but it didn’t work out because I realised that every time I spent money I didn’t remember to update it so then I started following the process of actually deciding how much I want to save and then at the beginning of the month when I get my salary, I put a certain amount in an FD and an RD so that I only have a certain amount of money spend. That is how I put a cap on my monthly expenses and ensured I saved a fixed amount. Apart from that if I have any additional money left at the end of the month, I have started putting that in Mutual Funds.

S: Which instrument do you prefer to save your money?
R: Given my knowledge, I prefer FDs and RDs because I understand how they work — even though not fully. I am not comfortable with SIPs and Mutual Funds — I’m giving them a shot because it’s available and people have said I should start exploring those options but my basic savings every month — the bare minimum happens in an FD because that is where I feel most comfortable.

S: What makes you comfortable with FDs?
R: I feel that an FD is more straightforward where there is a fixed amount saved for a fixed period and a there is a fixed rate of interest given to you upfront and unless something majorly goes wrong with the bank that’s a basic amount that you will get back anyways so it just feels safer.

Smartphone Usage

Technological gadgets are the single type of high-value assets acquired by Ratna using her own savings — this includes her smartphones(4, with the exception of her first feature phone) and her laptops(2). Her approach to selecting her latest smartphone was a pragmatic one —

S: How did you decide on which phone to buy?
R: I had a budget in mind, certain features I wanted and certain things that didn’t matter. The phone that I got cheapest with the features I required is the one that I went for.

The transition from feature phone to smartphones was a relatively smooth one for her, with just one minor grievance —

S: Did you have any trouble transitioning into Smartphones from feature phones?
R: I’m a small person, I find the size of smartphones big and cumbersome.

Although Ratna does not have any fixed financial goals at present, she understands the importance of saving and growing her personal wealth. Her financial journey so far reflects steady learning and growth which will certainly serve her once her goals do become clearer.

Credits

Read our other Research Series

About the Research

This documentation is a result of the in-person interview, along with the participants’ consent. The interviews might be conducted in their native languages and translated to English in the best possible way to reach a large audience.

Disclaimer: The identities of people and places in this documentation have been changed to honour the privacy of the participants.

About D91 Labs

This research was executed and documented by D91 labs. D91 labs is an open-source initiative by setu.co to help Bharat build great fintech products. We organise and publish user research, insights, and frameworks for fintech in India. Please follow us on medium for more exciting stories and insights on Bharat.

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