Thanks to Reserve Bank of India’s initiative to drive bankers to extend financial literacy across the large number of hitherto un-banked rural centres of the country, private sector banks are taking special initiatives to train their staff to cope with rural customers and set up branches in such hitherto un-banked centres in a big way.

Launching its financial literacy programme in Goa last weekend, HDFC Bank’s Ravi Narayanan, Branch Banking Head told The Hindu that thanks to this new drive towards financial inclusion, of its nearly 550 new branches set up last year, nearly 80 per cent were in such un-banked centres.

“And mind you”, he said, “the Bank is not into charity, we are into the banking business, working to promote sustainable livelihood initiatives through joint liability groups (JLG) and self-help groups (SHGs) by training women and artisans and linking them to marketing agencies.

Speaking of financial literacy, he said they were bringing more people into the banking fold by going deeper into rural areas.

Initiatives at livelihood through the month-long training programmes were free and did not require a participant to become a customer, he said.

For the HDFC Bank, the Board had approved a target of 10 million households to be brought into the banking fold in the next five years under the financial inclusion plans.

Already, last year 1.5 million households had been brought under the fold.

The idea was to give these households the feel of real banking by going in for capacity-building structures and creating marketing linkages for them to have their small ventures sustainable, he explained.

“We want people to do viable businesses,” he said and pointed that, for instance, in Goa they had focused on the dairy business in a big way. He said that by the end of March this year the bank had already reached out to 10-12000 un-banked centres and 50000-60,000 such rural centres by the end of five years..

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