Solar-Powered ATM Machines Expand Banking Options in Rural India

For many villagers in rural areas of India, personal banking comes at a high cost. In addition to the expense of traveling to the nearest branch, often in distant cities,

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A Gramateller ATM machine in India

Vortex Engineering
A “Gramateller” ATM in a Tamil Nadu village.
they must often forego a day’s work. Vortex Engineering, a start-up incubated at Chennai’s Indian Institute of Technology, has come up with a solution that not only saves rural Indians the day’s hassle but cuts down on energy use. Combining solar panels with innovative mechanical design requiring far less power, Vortex’s ATMs are capable of running on about 10 percent of the energy used by conventional machines. And because the low-power design produces very little heat of its own, the “Gramateller” — “gram” is Hindi for “village” — functions as well in the heat of a Rajasthani June as in the snowy winters of the hill station Nanital. To date, 450 Gramatellers have been installed, most in small towns between 30 and 60 kilometers from bank headquarters. Vortex officials say 10,000 more are slated to be in place within the next two years.