Millennium Post

Women: Powerful engines of the Indian economy

While India quietly turned 67 yesterday, the country’s economic movement continued making great strides in its progress forward nearly a decade-and-half later into the new millennium, with its economy ‘cocking a hefty snook’ at the world’s recession-prone economies through its thriving, varied economy — where women are showing the way, and even looking to head into the Guinness World Records.

A case in study is India’s first Women’s Bank — the Bharatiya Mahila Bank, which also recently became the first bank in India to provide EMV Chip cards with the recent launch in Mumbai of its BMB RuPay Debit Card comprising inbuilt EMV Chip that provides a secure transaction environment.

Bharatiya Mahila Bank CMD Usha Ananthasubramanian said ‘We put up this bank in barely 55 days and also had core banking solutions in the shortest possible time. Some people suggested that this was quite an achievement and we should get the bank into the Guinness World Records. Technology will be the key differentiator and driver in India where people are looking for hi-tech and hi-touch, though we don’t want to have a ‘faceless’ banking but rather one with a human touch
behind it.’

The bank, which is the first of its kind in the banking industry of India, was formed with a vision of economic empowerment for women and incorporated under the Companies Act 1956 on August , 2013, with its corporate office at Nehru Place in New Delhi.

 ‘BMB – which is wholly-owned by the government of India — is the first bank in India to resolve to issue EMV Chip cards to all its customers to provide them a secured transaction environment, besides the existing RTGS and NEFT services. The bank would soon also introduce other innovative, value-added products and services through EKYC for hassle-free account opening and biometric authentication services for illiterate customers,’ she said.

She said this card is now accepted at all ATMs, 95 per cent of PoS terminals (9,89,000+) and more than 15,000 eCom merchants in the country. Mahila bank required no capital infusion at present as it has Rs 400 crores and it was too early to talk about NPAs as the bank was barely in its ninth month, she said. ‘We are a tech-savvy bank and have started on a robust platform by adopting much-needed practices rather than having the regulator pushing us to do so,’ she said while mentioning that the bank would be using the ‘cluster approach’ alongside recruiting staff while opening branches in Kanpur, Agra, Kakinada, Cochin, Bhopal, Srinagar, Itanagar and Imphal taking the total to 80 by March 2015.

‘We started with Mastercard and then decided to have our own card called RuPay Chip card. This card is being used abroad and ‘Discover’ is our partner in its use abroad,’ she said, adding that the BMB’s unique banking approach has even drawn the interest of the Zimbabwe government which has approached the bank to consult them as they are keen on opening a similar women-run bank in that country.

Describing this RuPay Card as ‘futuristic,’ A P Hota, MD and CEO, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) said that this card is unique in being an India-produced card – unlike other banks which use foreign cards like Visa, Mastercard, Diners Card.

Besides, this card’s network is also barely one-third of related international cards and also its disputes, reconciliation mechanism is free unlike other cards which charge about $25 in this regard, he said, adding ‘We (NPCI) are like a utility for the banking industry and this card is one of the six products of NCPI for them in fulfilling the responsibilities given us by the RBI.’ The NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payment systems in India, set up with the support and guidance of the Reserve Bank of India and Indian Banks’ Association.

That India presents a fascinatingly-attractive, economic market for the world’s industry is
obvious from the number of multinationals wooing it. One such foreign business is Europe’s Britvic that is the largest supplier of branded softdrinks in Great Britain, Ireland (Ballygown, Miwadi), France with brands like Moulin de Valdonne and Teisseire, besides its Britvic International operations in 50 countries including Spain, Netherlands, Sweden,Norway, Iceland, Belgium and the Middle East with franchising in USA, Australia and now India.

Britvic’s Robinsons Fruit Shoot, which redefined the kids’ softdrinks landscape in Great Britain, has now entered the Indian market in a bid to cater to not just children but also the nearly billion-and-half population through its four unique flavours — mango, apple & pear, strawberry & raspberry, apple & blueberry — that have been specifically developed for the Indian palate.

‘There is no kids’ soft drink in the Indian market that has been both endorsed by Mums and has  a taste quite like Robinsons Fruit Shoot, and that’s why we are certain India is the right market to continue growing our international footprint,’ said Simon Stewart, Managing Director, Britvic International. ‘India, which represents an emerging middle class with a strong demographic, is our first Asian market and long-term strategic market. This softdrink is being locally produced in India near Mysore, Karnataka and Britvic plans to invest in growing in the Indian market in accordance with the brand’s growth in the region, he said.

‘Mango dominates the flavour segment by about 70 per cent but consumers’ palates are expanding to newer flavours,’ added Marius de Beer, VP and Director, Britvic Asia.

Meanwhile, nearer home itself, India’s own brand ‘Khadi’ is making waves with the Modi Government highlighting the role of women in the Indian industry, albeit in a small yet effective way. Union Minister for  MSME Kalraj Mishra lauded the status of women in the country’s industry by describing their one small yet enterprising effort such as ‘Lijjat Papad’ manufacture as an ideal successful endeavour that had blossomed into a Rs 1,095 turnover business today from barely Rs 50,000 in 1966. This Papad enterprise had become a vehicle for women’s upliftment today and fitted in with the Modi government’s focus on enhancing the lives of the poverty-stricken through creating jobs, infrastructure development, training for unskilled/unemployed youth and so on, he said while speaking at Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) headquarters in Mumbai recently.

‘The objective of the ministry is to make the common man self-dependent. Optimum utilisation of human resources and establishing a framework for this purpose is the need of the hour and our ministry will work towards that goal,’ he said while noting that the NDA government is focusing on creating jobs for youth and employment opportunities for the educated unemployed people through micro,small and medium enterprises.

Outlining his government’s plans targeted at women and youths, he said MSMEs would help entrepreneurs through the subsidy schemes and skills development training programmes such as in Noida where around 50,000 jobseekers were undergoing training. ‘We launched portal where about 1,500 businesses are featured and we have also introduced ‘Livelihood Incubation’ programme to train such people through ‘Incubation centres’ in the use of machines for manufacturing soaps, chips, furniture, biscuits and bakery items,’ he said, adding that these machines cost anywhere in the range of Rs 8 lakh to 12 lakh or so and the government is even assisting them in getting bank loans in this regard.

Pointing out the slogan of the central government being Berojgar se Swarojgar Yatra, Mishra said the government is making all out efforts to open ‘Livelihood Incubation’ centres in every district of India so that employment was plentiful for youth and unemployment a thing of the past. The flavor and fragrance segment of MSMEs, along with floriculture, too was being highlighted in this regard, he said.

While a ‘Business to Consumers’ portal had been launched three days ago, the KVIC had launched itself on Facebook and khadi sales were expected to rise through these social mediums, he said while stressing the need to highlight Khadi on a commercial level through proper marketing.

Mishra told Millennium Post that the KVIC had achieved Rs 100 crore exports last year alongside production worth Rs 26,107 crore, sales of Rs 31152 crore and employment generation for 140.38 lakh persons as part of its social objective of providing employment, economic objective of producing saleable articles and wider objective of creating self-reliance among people while building a strong rural community spirit in the KVI sector.

The KVIC, under the ‘Cluster Development Programme,’ had come out with a scheme of funds for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), besides a Khadi Reform Development Package (KRDP) with ADB assistance, he said while pointing out that under the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), the KVIC is expecting to achieve 60 per cent of a targeted 1,03,107 such applications — as part of its ‘100 days Action Plan.’

This ‘Action Plan’ would also witness approval of funds by SFC KVIC for 10 clusters (3 Khadi and 7 village Industries); preparation of final proposal for 55 clusters as per revised guidelines (13 clusters already identified and final proposals for remaining 42 to be prepared), besides direct reform assistance under KRDP (sanction of assistance to 30 KIs, and communication of sanction to five Village Industries clusters for development); Capacity-building including training on skill development to 12,800 persons by conducting ‘Entreneurship Awareness Programme’ for 9,300 prospective entrepreneurs.

Urging the KVIC for studying and improving quality of life and employment for spinners and weavers besides wage enhancement and increased productivity, he said the Central government is focusing on technological upgradation — in areas where charkhas are being used — to increase working efficiency and quality of khadi products. The minister also flagged off a KVIC mobile sales van that would create awareness while also promoting sales of fashionable khadi products targeted at young women in colleges— as was being done in Delhi already.
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