Where women walk the red carpet to banking

January 8th, 2009 - 1:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Jan 8 (IANS) Enjoy a steaming cuppa at an in-house café. Tap away at an internet kiosk. Catch your favourite soap on television or just sit back and get a foot massage. And all this for free at India’s first exclusive women’s bank here.Named Vasundhara, it has seen a big response since it was set up six months ago by the country’s largest lender, the State Bank of India, at Gomti Nagar in Lucknow with the aim of promoting banking among the fairer sex.

“With an aim to empower women towards self-reliance and promote banking among them, the SBI had set up Vasundhara over six months back and it is becoming quite popular among women,” Arun Pandey, the Vasundhara branch manager at Eastend Wave Mall, told IANS.

“Unlike men, women normally hesitate in banking and operating accounts. Taking this fact into account, we decided to set up an all-women bank that could help them shed their inhibitions.”

The bank has male as well as female employees but all primary account holders have to be women.

It has already notched up 2,300 accounts with total deposits of Rs.365 million and advances of Rs.25 million. And the numbers are growing.

“Almost every day, we are entertaining 8-10 queries of women interested to open their accounts here,” another official said.

It’s the lounge at Vasundhara where all the unique customer-friendly services are offered.

Made of wood and glass, with tulip-shaped carvings, the lounge is turning out to be a big favourite with women who can be found sitting on the plush sofa sets, sipping coffee and watching the big-screen plasma TV fitted on the wall.

Besides LCD monitor computers with high-speed internet connectivity, a massage centre in the lounge is the recent of all the attractions.

“In keeping with our customer-friendly offers, we have just set up a massage room where customers can get a foot massage done by a machine. With this offer, several of our customers even come here for relaxation and not for banking!” said Pandey.

Women have appreciated the novel banking concept.

Says Meenal Awasthi, a housewife residing in the Aliganj area who has a savings account in Vasundhara: “It’s an altogether different banking experience. With such services at your disposal, you feel special every time you come here.”

Anuradha Chandra, a resident of Vikas Nagar, who has a joint account there with her husband, said: “It’s just an out-of-the-world experience. Initially, I used to hesitate when it came to carrying out banking transactions myself, but now I just love coming here.”

And if men think they will be left out of such a unique banking service, they need not worry.

“Men are also welcome and can enjoy such facilities, provided they open a joint account with a woman,” Pandey said. The primary account holder here needs to be a woman but the co-applicant can be a male family member of her choice, he explained.

According to officials, SBI has over 60 million customers across Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

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