ICICI Bank, the largest private sector lender in the country, said it had opened 101 Gramin’ branches, as distinct from their other rural ones, in villages without a banking facility across six states today, as part of its financial inclusion plan.
These Gramin’ branches will remain open for four hours a day, six days a week, offering basic banking services such as a savings bank account, fixed and recurring deposits, remittances, Kisan Credit Cards and tractor loans. Similar to existing branches in rural centres, they will have at least three employees of the bank. ICICI might add automated teller machines (ATMs) to some of these branches in the coming months, depending on business size.
“The only difference with the rural branches are (that) the Gramin’ branches are set up in unbanked areas. Being managed by our own employees, we will have better control on service quality,” said Rajiv Sabharwal, executive director.
After the opening of these Gramin’ branches, the bank now has a little over 400 rural branches and 5,000 customer service points, together serving a little more than 10,000 villages. Its country network is a little over 2,800 branches and 10,000 ATMs.
The Gramin’ branches were opened today in 19 districts across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The cost of establishing each is estimated at Rs 450,000.
Sabharwal dismissed reports that the bank was also exploring acquisition opportunities to expand its rural footprint. He said rural expansion would be done organically and at least 25 per cent of new branches would be in unbanked regions. In recent years, 250-300 new branches have been opened annually.
ICICI opened close to two million no-frills savings accounts this year, taking the total number in this category with it to around 12 million.
The bank is also engaged in electronic benefit transfers for disbursement of wages to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme workers and social security/pension beneficiaries. It has launched a Saral Money Prepaid Card’, with the Unique Identification Authority of India. The card can be used to deposit or withdraw money from various customer service points using fingerprint authentication. The card allows financial transactions without a bank account and would also be used to receive government subsidies and benefits.