The country’s first women’s bank — the Bharatiya Mahila Bank — is set to commence operations on Tuesday. It is starting with five branches and will open its headquarters in Delhi and another office in Indore, after the upcoming state elections. Usha Ananthasubramanian, CMD of the bank spoke to Surabhi on expansion plans and empowering women in all possible ways — from loans for efficient kitchens to lending to self-help groups. Excerpts:
What will be the bank’s key focus areas?
As the name suggests, the bank will predominantly cater to women, although men will also be welcome to open accounts. But our main focus will be on women and women’s empowerment through products and services, financial inclusion and financial literacy.
Will the bank offer special products and services to women?
Like all commercial banks, we will offer plain vanilla products such as savings and current accounts. But we will focus on all categories of women entrepreneurs, salaried class and unbanked sections. For instance, for working women, the bank will provide loans for day care centres, home food and tiffin services and even lend to build efficient kitchens that will ease the burden of working women. Similarly, we will also lend to self-help groups. We also plan to work on last-mile connectivity through NGOs to impart training to women to improve their economic productivity.
To what extent are men involved in running the bank. Also how far will the bank cater to male customers?
‘Women’ is the catchword for the bank. So we are predominantly employing women and of our staff strength of 100, most are women. But men will be welcome to open accounts and we will also lend to them.
New bank licences will be given out early next year. Will it mean more competition for the Bharatiya Mahila Bank?
We must realise that India is a largely underbanked and under served country. So there is great scope for banking services and that is how we look at it. But not every bank can only serve those living in metros and cities. Banks must come up with novel concepts and new business models.
What is your expansion plan? Do you plan to increase the Rs 1,000 crore initial capital outlay?
We plan to open about 25 branches by March 2014. But not all of them will be the typical brick-and-mortar branches, we will also open mobile and satellite offices. Additionally, we will be setting up ATMs to increase the