Vortex Engineering : The Developer of Gramateller Solar ATMs

Vortex Engineering : The Developer of Gramateller Solar ATMs

Villagers in India have to travel miles for basic amenities such as food and medical facilities. In these circumstances, access to banking services may seem like a dream. But not anymore, thanks to an ATM built for rural India by Chennai-based Vortex Engineering. The idea of an ATM for rural India took root in the early part of the decade, when Vortex’s founder, R. Kannan, an alumnus of IIT Madras, along with professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Bhaskar Ramamurthi and other faculty, were working on ways to leverage technology for rural benefit. Around the same time, a few banks approached IIT Madras for help with rural banking. The team experimented with installing ATMs in a rural area near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, and the results were encouraging. People were able to use the ATM without assistance but the hitch was the high cost involved.

Vortex Gramateller Solar-Powered ATM

Vortex Gramateller Solar ATM

Vortex Gramateller Solar ATM

Vortex launched Gramateller commercially in 2008, and after a pilot with State Bank of India in the same year, the company has now clinched an order for 545 ATMs from the bank. Orders have also started coming in from private banks. The manufacturing of the ATMs has been outsourced to a contract manufacturer.

Vortex is the only Indian company making it to the Time magazine 2011 list of “10 start-ups that will change your life”, selected out of 31 companies honored as “Technology Pioneers” by the World Economic Forum. Vortex was recently selected as the latest entrant to Business Call to Action (BCtA), a global initiative that encourages private sector efforts to fight poverty, supported by the UN Development Programe, among others.

V. Vijay Babu, CEO of Vortex shares the initial challenges during development process. He said :

Lack of access to financial services can carry a high cost for the people who can least afford it, so delivering access to formal banking presents a significant economic opportunity for poor, rural communities.

Our plans to operate ATMs on solar power were greeted with utter disbelief. We faced challenges initially in getting them adopted by our end users, the rural folks, who are not particularly tech-savvy. But once they realized that they were getting control of their own money, they accepted it wholeheartedly.

Low Cost Installation

Structure of Vortex Gramateller Solar ATM

Structure of Vortex Gramateller Solar ATM

The Gramateller ATM runs on Linux, which is an open source software, unlike conventional ATMs that run on Windows for which license has to be purchased. It also has a built-in UPS, which ensures the ATM doesn’t go down when there are power-cuts, and the option to run on solar energy. The new solar-powered ATMs don’t need air conditioning and consume 100 W of power. Compared to the typical models, these new ATMs will consume less than 72 units monthly. The saving figures are impressive. The installation of a solar ATM will save 1728 energy units per month and nearly INR 1, 20,000 annually. Vortex Engineering created the ATMs with an amazing ability to reduce the CO2 emissions. The usage of a solar power automatic teller machine means at least 18, 500 Kg less emissions per year. This revolutionary project will respond to the needs for Rural ATMs.

The company has been working on improving the qualities of the Indian rural landmark. According to the statistics the ATM penetration is about 0.04 per 1000 people in the country. The Vortex solar ATMs will respond to the need for Rural ATMs. The manufacturing of the new solar powered machines is now growing with an impressive speed.