• How the Bhartiya Mahila Bank is an agent of change

    A bank just for women and by women- Bhartiya Mahila Bank is supporting women to start their own businesses and stand on their own feet. The bank aims to uplift women by giving them loan under 1 cr without asking for any security. The bank claims to change the condition of Indian mindset that traditionally disallows the transfer of property on the women’s name. The bank also has this clause that it will only have women at the executive level adding to the credibility and strengthening the idea to the fullest. Poorvi Gupta caught up with the Executive director of the bank, S.M. Swathi a progressive woman whose is helping build the bank’s infrastructure.

    Q1. How did your joining into BMB happen? What made you take up the job?

    Executive Directors of Public Sector Banks are appointed by the Government of India after a selection process. Out of eligible General Managers of PSB, I got into this bank being the only successful female candidate and also topping the list of selected Executive Directors.

    She was the only successful female candidate and topped the list of EDs

    I come from Coorg, Karnataka. I joined Corporation Bank as an Agriculture Officer three decades ago and rose in my career to the position of Executive Director. Bharatiya Mahila Bank’s vision is Economic Empowerment of Women and this noble cause made me assume charge with great delight.

    Bharatiya Mahila Bank from SHE THE PEOPLE on Vimeo.

    Q2. What has the inspiration been into the starting of BMB?

    The Bank was set up with a vision of economic empowerment of women. There was a dire need to financially include the women of the country, particularly, the women who had no formal, regular access to banks, banking services and banking products.

    There was a dire need to financially include the women of the country

    The Bank was set up with the Mission to be a bank of choice for all women, enabling economic empowerment, in both urban and rural areas by: Facilitating inclusive growth through access to financial services; Addressing needs of women across all strata; Eliminating lending bias against women; Promoting asset ownership by women; Promoting women entrepreneurship; Supporting women’s livelihood; Supporting self-help groups to widen outreach; Promoting financial literacy amongst women; Constantly innovating on products, processes and delivery mechanisms to provide best in class products and services; Continuously adopting newer technologies and low cost delivery models to· bring in efficiencies; Predominantly employing women to address gender related issues; Operating on lines so as to ensure the financial viability and sustainability of the institution.

    Q3. How does BMB work to uplifting women economically?

    By Introducing innovative products; educating women on banking products, services and facilities; providing service to women customers according to their needs; working with Self Help Groups and other organisations of repute are some of the efforts taken by the Bank to uplift women economically.

    The Bank has designed and developed many women centric products like BMB Parvarish – loans for Child Day Care Centres, BMB Annapurna – loans for Catering Centres, BMB Shringaar – loans for setting up beauty parlours etc. The Bank conducts Financial Literacy programmes through all its branches every Saturday. We strongly believe in being a catalyst of change in the lives of women of India.

    Q4. What all sections of the society does the bank focus on and why?

    The Bank focusses on all segments of the society. The Bank has products to cater to the needs of the women belonging to all economic strata. For example, our special Recurring Deposit product Komal kali is a product that caters to all women. The monthly minimum investment is just Rs.50 which is affordable by all and no cap on upper limit. The Bank is keen on inclusive growth. The Bank organizes workshops for women entrepreneurs wherein it provides guidance to the existing women entrepreneurs. The Bank even finances for purchase of cows, solar lanterns, e rickshaws etc. BMB focusses on ensuring Banking benefits reach the entire pyramid of women, in every corner of the country.

    Q5. Do you think there is adequate awareness among rural women about the bank? How does the promotion of bank in rural areas work?

    The Bank has 23 rural branches and the women in these areas are aware of the Bank. We also have tie up with NGOs, Self Help Groups and other organizations of repute to reach women in the remote and deeper pockets.

    Q6. Has the bank been able to attract as many customers on a national level? What are its strategies?

    The Bank’s customers are from across India. The Bank has built a strong customer base of over 1.7 lakh customers. We have very simplified KYC norms and our entire manpower works in line with our tagline Empowering Women, Empowering India. Constantly improving the customer service, introducing innovative products, hand-holding of customers are all the various aspects that we adhere to for attracting our customers.

    Q7. Why do you think that we need such gender-oriented banks?

    Though women have been doing lot of financial transactions, women seeking the formal banking channels for financial transactions are very less.

    “Women are very shy to even enter into the Bank,” says S.M.Swathi

    Though women do earn, the decisions relating to their finances are mostly dependent on men. Women focused Banks can ensure that women in the country are not only given access to banking; but also shown the path and guided to attain economic empowerment.

    Q8. Did entrepreneurship banking come easy to you?

    Even if one has any innate talent, one has to work hard to nurture the same.

    Banking became my second nature because I always was very willing to learn.

    I never hesitated to literally walk a long distance even 10 km to get a good account. Learning and equally unlearning have helped me become a professional banker.

    Q9. How has your experience been being an entrepreneur banker for such a long time?

    As a banker for over three decades, I have been able to interact with many women. As an agriculture officer, I have also interacted with rural women. As Circle Head, I have had the opportunities to interact with corporate women. So my experience and exposure to various areas of banking particularly credit and agriculture come in handy to efficiently and effectively take the Bank forward towards a growth path.

    Q10. What is your idea of an empowered woman in the country?

    The moment she thinks of her independence, when she is able to identify her inner self, fix the goals towards achieving the same, decides the path she needs to take, she becomes empowered, the rest will follow.