The need of the hour is to focus on unbanked areas and make banking inclusive, asserted T. M. Bhasin, who took over as the new Chairman and Managing Director of the Indian Bank here on Thursday.

In an interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Bhasin said reaching to the needy and making banking accessible to people in the rural areas were far more important for the Indian Bank at this point of time.

He said that Indian Bank would explore both the technology and brick and mortar routes to service the hitherto unbanked areas. “A lot of money is in rural areas,’’ he said. By proper harnessing of the rural wealth, the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) could be raised by one to one-and-a-half per cent, he felt. To tap the rural market, the bank would not hesitate to explore all options including tie-ups with post offices and rural kirana shops, he said.

Discussing a range of issues, Mr. Bhasin said he would like to make Indian Bank “the bank for younger generations’’. In this context, he said he would like to leverage the technology to bring in more youngsters onto the fold of Indian Bank. The new CMD said that the Indian Bank was working on a customer-friendly and Internet-enabled approach to woo younger customers. Asserting that “this (wooing youngsters) is a big challenge,’’ Mr. Bhasin hinted that Indian Bank would open branches at campuses of various educational institutions such as IITs and IIMs and counters at coffee shops to attract the younger clients.

To a question, he said that the Indian Bank would use technology to equip the staff to be more effective and efficient in their interface with the customers. The Indian Bank, according to him, has currently a customer base of 2.28 crore. He was hopeful that this base would improve to 2.75 crore by March 2012.

Mr. Bhasin said the total business of the bank was in the vicinity of Rs.1,50,000 crore for the year ended March 2010. He expected the total business of the bank to go up to Rs. 1,750,000 crore in 2010-11 and further to Rs.2,00,000 crore by 2011-12. The net interest margin, he said, was comfortable at 3.6 per cent. The CASA (current account and savings account) stood at 32.4 per cent in 2009-10. He expected the CASA to improve to 34 per cent in the current financial year.

Mr. Bhasin said Indian Bank would target a net profit of Rs.2,000 crore by March 2012. Though the net NPA (non-performing asset) was at 0.16 per cent at the moment, he set himself a target of zero per cent net NPA by 2012. “Our focus will be on strengthening the balance sheet and flow the net profit into reserves,’’ he said. This would help to boost the Tier I capital of the bank besides helping to increase the capacity of the bank to mobilise Tier II capital, he added.

The bank currently has 1,756 branches. The new CMD said Indian Bank would add close to 400 branches in the next two years. In this context, he said more branches would be opened in North and West so as to make Indian Bank a pan-India one. Indian Bank, he said, was also planning to expand its presence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “The focus will be more on inclusive growth,’’ he asserted.