Think recovery agents and you think of tough men who employ “fierce means” to make defaulters pay up. But how about a band of 250 young women who work as recovery agents? Adhikrut Jabti Evam Vasuli, a ‘recovery agency’ that handles 20 nationalised banks’ loan cases in nine Indian states, employs women for recovery operations.
The Mumbai-headquartered company has branches in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka. Parag Shah, the owner, is philosophical about his business.
“Recovery needs patience and persuasion, who can do it better than women?” he asks. Richa Hande, 22, who takes care of the MP and Chattisgarh branches, has a different take: “Defaulters are usually men and they feel embarrassed, so they pay up,” she says.
First, the agents send a notice to the defaulter. If he does not respond, the agents, armed with legal documents, seal the property. At times, they take the help of the police. And the entire recovery operation, from delivering the notice to the sealing of the property to auctioning it, is video-graphed. “We follow the guidelines specified in the Sarfaesi Act, 2002,” says Manju Bhatia, 21, joint director of the company.
Recently, Vasuli’s women went to seal a sweet shop near Indore. “The owner (the defaulter) and his men threatened us but we stood our ground for six hours and started packing his wares. A large crowd gathered at the shop; finally he paid up Rs 7 lakh,” says Hande.
Tamil Nadu is the worst offender: there are as many as 5,500 cases from just one branch of a nationalised bank in the state.
A woman agent earns Rs 10,000 a month, and “people are amazed – and at times in awe of me – to know that I work as a recovery agent,” says Hande, a science graduate.
How are the women recruited?
“We advertise in newspapers. All our girls are educated, aged between 20 and 30,” says Vinita Bajaj, who heads the Rajasthan branch.
Samta Bhavasar, 26, a team leader in Indore, she says it’s “fun doing something that is generally considered a male bastion”. And Hande says that earlier her husband used to be worried, but now “he jokes with his friends that if they trouble him, he will call his wife and his band of recovery agents.”