Citibank is betting big on its micro-finance initiatives. It plans to rope in 750,000 customers by the end of 2008 through deposit accounts and loans.
The bank has begun to make its presence felt among the country’s middle class with the introduction of the zero-balance Suvidhaaccount. Now, with its new Pragati accounts and biometric ATMs, which operate with thumb impressions, the bank hopes to reach out to the lower-income category to significantly increasing its reach in India.
PS Jayakumar, head of global consumer group for Citibank in India, said, “Our sales force will go and seek out people in the low-income categories. They will speak the local language. They will reach out to people who do not walk in to a Citibank branch since it looks intimidating.” The bank has started two pilots in Hyderabad and Mumbai and already has more than 3,000 Pragati account holders.
Citibank also has 2.5 lakh micro-finance customers who have taken loans. The bank has sought the Reserve Bank of India’s permission to install 20 new biometric ATMs across the country. “These ATMs will be in areas where our target customers live, accept cash deposits like other ATMs and help customers save,” Jayakumar added.
Apart from the Pragati bank account and the micro-finance loans initiative, Citibank has tied up with the Indian School of Microfinance to conduct workshops to educate customers.
“We want the micro-finance business to stand on its own feet as an independent business,” he said.