State Bank of India North-East circle has launched an ambitious programme of appointing 3,000 customer service points (CSP) of business correspondents (BC) across the rural and semi urban centres in Assam. Tarun Gogoi, chief minister of Assam, launched the programme in Titabar on June 30 for 1,500 such business correspondents in the state. The scheme envisages loans from SBI for all technology devices and infrastructure required for setting up kiosks of BCS. The state government has come forward to extend support by offering subsidy to the identified CSP operators under employment generation schemes. "This is a unique model for creating opportunity for employment generation and making financial inclusion a viable business enterprise," said a senior SBI official of NE circle. The business correspondent model for financial inclusion, although extended to various categories of individuals and entities by RBI, was not picking up at the expected rate in the region due to lack of viability, the official added. This innovative model of meeting capital requirement of entrepreneurs, for setting up kiosks to offer banking facilities, through bank loan along with subsidy from the state government will make the model definitely more sustainable and viable, he said. SBI has engaged Sahaj rural development foundation, an NGO for using the existing common information centres (CICs) of government of Assam.
The CICs which are so far generating revenue only through offering various services of state government to public, now will also generate additional income by sourcing banking products and offering banking services to the so far unbanked population. Drishtee Foundation, a prominent all India based NGO, has been engaged as BC by the bank. Drishtee has been in operation in the state for the past 3 years with 400 CSPs and has been offering computer education and other related services along with banking services. These CSPs will also be a part of this scheme. The internet-based kiosk banking with bio-metric verification, innovated by SBI, will now be rolled out through BCs in the state. The BCs will now operate through both smart card-based SBI 'Tiny Card' accounts and internet-based KIOSK banking, thereby increasing the bank's outreach to those deprived of banking facilities through use of various technologies. SBI plans to introduce SMS-based mobile phone technology and bio-metric enabled rural ATMs to support this movement to reach out to the rural population in the state.