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SBI plans to launch mobile ATMs soon

Our Bureau

Pune , March 22

WHAT'S next on the State Bank of India's agenda? Mobile ATMs. The concept has been drawn out and is in the process of being launched, tapping few segments in the initial stages, Mr Ramesh Kumar, Chief General Manager, State Bank of India, Mumbai Circle, has said here. These mobile ATMs would be seen crisscrossing the country during the next financial year, he said. He was in the city for the inauguration of the third personalised banking branch.

Mr Kumar said another initiative, which had found good response was the tie-up between the bank, farmer and the buyer for agricultural produce.

The experiment has been carried out with the onion farmers and Jain Irrigation in Aurangabad.

He said the buyer, Jain Irrigation, which is into exports, provided the seedlings and technology to farmers, who were assured of good returns for their produce. Mr Ramesh said the bank has tried this experiment with onion produce for the current year and has covered 600 farmers. It plans to increase this to 3,000 customers by the next financial year and was also targeting other segments such as grape cultivators, vegetables producers and the dairy industry.

Talks are already on with Dynamix Dairy in Baramati for this, he said. Asked about the risk factors in this programme, he said crop insurance covered much of the risk, which is likely to occur due to drought or heavy rainfall. The Ministry of Food Procession has also earmarked certain amount as subsidy for farmers engaged in this programme, he said.

The other risk factor "was if the farmer refused to sell his produce to the buyer who has signed the memorandum of understanding or if the buyer decides to have a change of heart, which is something that cannot be justified'' he said. The bank has undertaken an effort - Universal Computerisation Project - to connect all its branches to one network so that the customers could benefit from the Anywhere Banking concept. He said the effort were being made with investments from Tata Consultancy Services and the project would be completed in phases.

He said the bank was also in the process of making operational the Core Banking Solution in approximately 3,000 branches by the year 2005.

The entire project would entail an investment of Rs 800 crore, he said. The bank has a network of 197 branches including 26 metro, 32 urban, 83 semi-urban and 56 rural branches.

Commenting on the ATM segment, he said in Maharashtra and Goa there were about 260 ATMs and by March 31, it was planning to increase this number to 320. By the end of the next fiscal, it would increase to 700 ATMs, he said. As of February 2004, the aggregate deposits with the Pune module was Rs 4,346 crore, while advances on that date stood at Rs 1,730 crore.

The bank has also recruited recovery agents for bringing down the non-performing assets and added that "it is treading a cautious path and these recovery agents have been recruited at the district level.''

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