News Karnataka
Thursday, December 01 2022

Inclusive banking is the need of the hour: Jaya C Suvarna, Chairman, Bharat Co-operative Bank

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The vision of a handful of young, enthusiastic and like-minded social workers associated with Billawa Association, Mumbai to bring about social change led to the formation of Bharat Co-operativeBank in 1978. Initially this bunch of young men struggled to collect even the basic share amount of Rs 10 per share. However they never lost sight of their goal and their perseverance paid off. Thirty eight years down the line, Bharat Bank has won the hearts and trust of people and its tremendous growth is a testament to this.
The Bank is known for its service and clean image. In the metropolis of Mumbai itself, it boasts of a customer base of more than 5.5 lakh, an achievement in itself. Declared a Scheduled Bank by the Reserve Bank of India, the bank has grown in leaps and bounds in the last one decade in terms of  number of branches, mobilization of deposits, deployment of resources, profitability, incorporation of technology platforms etc.

As the bank baskedin the glory of reaching a century of branches, having opened its 100th branch recently, Bharat Co-operative Bank Chairman, Jaya C Suvarna, who has hand held the bank through this eventful journey spoke to Karnataka Today’s Bhakti V. Hegdeabout the future of the bank.

First of all congratulations on the inauguration of the 100th branch. What is the next big plan of the bank?
We are a 39-year-old organization and we pride ourselves on where we have reached. The bank has garnered about 48 awards in banking and it has consistently maintained ‘A’ grade in audit classification since 1985. With a staff strength of 1300, the bank had touched Rs 16,100 cr. Turnover.  Our target is to reach Rs 25,000 cr. turn over in 2018 and have 125 branches.

We have made our presence felt in three states- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. However, now we intend to spread our wings and during the recent general body meeting of the bank, we have passed a resolution to start operations in Kerala. We are now awaiting approval for the same from the registrar.Meanwhile, though there are ideas on going public, these plans are at a nascent stage and therefore inappropriate to talk about them right now.

Most of the co-op banks are doing well for themselves. But, despite that what are the challenges that are being faced by the Co-op banks?
As far as Bharat Bank is concerned, there are no challenges as such in terms of policies of the government. But, if I am to pin point a particular challenge that we have taken on ourselves then, it is surely to improve our ranking. We have been ranked fifth in India in the Co-operative banking sector. We aim to improve that.  However, given the fact that the four banks ahead of us, that is Saraswat Bank, Shamrao Vital Bank, Cosmos Bank and Abhyudaya Bank have a history of over a century, we are happy with where we stand.

Co-ops have their origin deep rooted in service. Today the co-ops are providing services on par with any other nationalized banks and they also have their presence in big cities. Are the co-ops losing their identity of being a common man’s bank?
Providing services on par with competitors or nationalized banks is imperative if we want to sustain ourselves and grow. Moreover inclusive banking is the need of the hour.  Since we have our initiation in Maharashtra, most of our branches are in Maharashtra. However, we have 18 branches in Karnataka and four branches in Gujarat. We are growing and we are going places, but the truth is that no matter what we do and where we go the spirit of the co-operative movement is still intact.

The success story of Bharat Bank is truly inspirational, but at the same time there are several co-ops which are struggling to run the show. When you look back, what do you think is the main factor behind the success of the bank?
We had a humble beginning, but right from the first day, each and every person associated with the bank had decided that he would work for the bank with all his heart and soul. Though it was started by the Billawa Association, members from coastal belt living in Maharashtra and associated with various organizations such as the Bunts Sangha, Devadiga Sangha, Kannada Sangha or others took this bank as their own and toiled for the growth. The result is that there was never a time when we had to think of ways to bring people to open accounts. Every time we open a new branch, it is sure that on the opening day there are 1000 accounts and a deposit of about Rs 10 cr.

Narayana Guru is the guiding light of the bank and the factors for success is the dedication, honesty and non-corrupt approach of each and every person associated with the bank. If you follow the rules and do business with dedication and honesty there is no reason for you to fail.
They say co-op banking sector is a ‘playground for politicians’. Do you agree with this?
There are several examples which have proven that Co-op banking sector is marred by political interference, but I can proudly say that Bharat Bank is not in the clutches of politicians. As I said earlier, we only abide by the RBI rules and we are very cautious while doing our business. During the inception of the bank, senior Congress Leader and former minister B Janardhan Poojary helped us a lot to open the bank. But, after that neither did Mr Poojary interfere in the functioning of the bank nor did he ever send in any recommendations. We are completely apolitical.
Statistics show that 56.7 pc of the total 63.3 per cent of Indian savings is bank deposits alone. In such a case do you think justice is being done to the depositors when they rarely get a rate of interest on deposits that is higher than the rate of inflation?
Well, a large chunk of the Indian population believes that bank deposits are the best possible method of saving. This is mainly because of the trust factor that the banks have managed to build over the years of sincere service. Secondly, even a depositor knows that when he deposits his hard-earned money in a bank, it is in safe hands. In other forms of investments, there is a risk factor always higher than bank deposits. Injustice or not is another issue, but if the depositors still opt for bank deposits over other methods and means of savings, that means the injustice factor is not playing up in their minds.

(This article was published in the recent issue of Karnataka Today Magazine)

(This article was published in the recent issue of Karnataka Today Magazine) – See more at:
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