Central Bank of India's Outstanding Outreach Programme

Outstanding Outreach Programme to Optimise Rural Credit


Central Bank of India

Outstanding Outreach Programme

To optimise rural credit

Central Bank of India, along with its Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), covers 11,100 sub-service areas(SSAs) and large number of BC Agents and BC Points. It has 51lead districts across seven States to take care of. Last year, the bank arranged 231 Outreach programmes with a broad aim of not only creating awareness among people about various banking services but also various government schemes, including social security schemes available for them and what benefits they may deserve from them. The bank ensures that its Outreach programmes attract people from various walks of life, students and teachers, social and political activists, local leaders and leave behind greater imprint in everyone's mind ever to remember and ever to benefit from it.  The innovations that the bank wants to wrap all its Outreach programmes also show its great social banking wisdom.

Central Bank of India (CBI) wantsall itsOutreach programme to be totally different from the traditional plain vanilla style approach that public sector banks routinely follow. It should be an all-pervading, well-integrated and comprehensive exercise bringing together a gamut of institutional services, financial and social security products, relevant government schemes available locally and nationally for rural people across all classes by ensuring presence of everyone of them. The Outreach progammes should be designed with a wisdom to deliver and serve with as many financial and social security plans as possible, which are beneficial for the rural masses, according to their needs and affordability. It should also impart knowledge of new genre of banking services and schemes targeted to the rural people at a single place.

The Bank wants its team to take an attempt on making it virtually as grand a gala event as possible from which people must be able to take home something.First of all, the concept and the connotation of each programme should be clear and convincing, says Dr R.C Lodha, Executive Director, Central Bank of India. Each programme must be designedas a project that addresses wide-ranging issues and facilitates people to access not only banking services but also knowledge and awareness. An out-of-box approach that Central Bank of India’s Outreach programmesshows that it is making a serious attempt to make itself remarkably different from others. "We want our team to think broadly, make an elaborate arrangement for the gala event in the name of Outreach programme with a well-integrated approach with multiple activities that show good results," points out Dr Lodha.

When a bank plans an Outreach programme and wants it to be a mega event, it must dwell on certain essential aspects carefully, Dr Lodha opines. The bank needs to be careful of its choice of place where the events is to be organised. It should conceive an appropriate project theme and prepare a list of persons to be involved in the event. The organisers must identify the inevitable section of participants anddraw up promotional activities for the event. The participation of people can be assured through mass contacts and publicityalong with other available local modes. It should be like a Mandal in broad sense of the term, where people have many things under one-roof.

Central Bank of India arranges Outreach progamme is organised usually in a place where there is a cluster of two or three branches. These branches work out on all the essential aspects of the Outreach programme and use their local clout to ensure involvement of people from all walks of life under the respective regions of the branches, Director of RSETI, Self Help Groups (SHGs), insurance companies, banking service mitras, banking correspondents (BCs) and various other service providers, who would be useful for local people.The uniqueness and success of the programme depend on the event’s theme that can attract people from all sections. The Outreach programme arrangers ensure the enthusiastic participation of everyone from the surrounding villages, including housewives, students, teachers, Tahsildar, sarpanch, political and social organisations’ leaders, NGOs, representatives of government agencies, etc. The bank wants each programme to be a mega local fair that makes the people content with its deliveries and awareness that enables them to access various suitable schemes for social protection and financial growth. Every project should bring sustainable, long lasting and remarkable results, Dr Lodha says. Central Bank of India has a deep understanding of the perception of people, their taste and emerging necessities.Outreach programmes are designed accordingly.

India has an estimated six lakh villages with more than two-thirds of the national population living therein. They require financial literacy, awareness about various government schemes and institutional services that can benefit them, a delivery point with assistance.While many villages are extremely poor even now with huge scope for improvements, socially and economically, many of the villages and villagers have inherent potential to grow under a careful institutional intervention and guidance. Aware of these facts, Central Bank of India wants to deploy its strength and rural apparatus more effectively, beyond just carrying out the Outreach programme. On the other side, as the bank rightly identifies, institutions also have huge business opportunities to tap once they create awareness among the village folks about how they can make best use of formal institutions’ array of services.

It seems the Central government, understanding the strength of public sector banks, their capabilitiesand knowledge of the rural markets and dynamics of rural economy, is keen to get theiractive involvement for implementing many high profile schemes. For the success of some of the path-breaking government initiatives like PMJDY, the massive talent pool and rural infrastructure of banks were deployed on war-footing basis. Banks also responded to the call of the government and showed an incredible performance through stretching their outreach as much as possible. Large public sector bank like Central Bank of India responded enthusiastically with its readiness to take up the task, howsoever gigantic the challenge is.  The Bank now wants to explore further through its Outreach programmes, not with the intention of merely adding up its number of rural customers for boasting, but to make the entire folks gain the benefit of banking services along with the benefits of the government schemes for their financial well-being and bright future. By optimally using its men and material, the bank knows it can optimise rural credit and lay solid foundation for future business growth.

With a network of 17,000 outlets (4700 branches, 5200 ATMs and 7100 BC Points) across the country, of whichmore than two-thirds being in semi urban and rural areas, the bank has understood the need of gearing up its programme in an innovative and constructive manner. That would contribute to what might be called real inclusive growth, says Dr Lodha. Such kind of innovative and value added Outreach projects ensure that the bank achieves multiple aims of carrying out its social responsibilities, which are inherent in its ethos on which it was founded more than a century ago; helping the country build a strong rural economy, building a sustainable future business basefor itself by optimising rural credits and establishing its brand image.

Ultimately, while galvanizing the implementation of financial inclusion programme, the bank is looking beyond the simple coverage of people under banking service. It is not only the number of accounts and customers the bank is ultimately looking at, but also the quality it is concerned about. Its latest plan in the name of SAMUHIK, which it launched since 1st April 2016, elucidates this. This well-thought-out programme, based on its ethos of serving the people in every stage of their life in every possible way, will go a long way as it aims to meet one’s needs across all stages of life. The acronym of SAMUHIK – Schools, Aadhar seeding, MUDRA loan, Unemployment to employment, Health awareness, Insurance for social security and Know-how for skill development, broadly specifieswhat the bank intends to do. In fact, the bank promises its services that would cater to the need of people of all ages across their life under various schemes. This programme would be implemented in a different manner that brings far-reaching results, beyond just providing banking services to the people, says Dr R.C Lodha.Under the scheme the bank would work for bringing financial literacy among school children, aadhar seeding for getting benefits directly into the savings account under various government schemes, imparting self-employment training and skill upgradation training for youths to enable them to find jobs, credit assistance under MUDRA scheme for setting up enterprises, support for health check-up and soil testing. Besides these, the bank also would facilitate delivery of government sponsored social securityschemes like PradhanMantriSurakshaBimaYojana (PMSBY), PradhanMantriJeevanJyotiBimaYojana (PMJJY), as well as Atal Pension Yojana (APY). These efforts, besides comprehensively bringing awareness among masses on socio-economic issues, also deliver the benefits of major government schemes, ultimately a inclusive socio-economic development in the country, DrLodha explains.

On 15th August 2014, the Prime Minister, Mr NarendraModi launched a path-breaking movement called PradhanMantri Jan DhanYojana (PMJDY) assigning commercial banks to cover the unbanked people under formal banking services. Every bank took up the task on their shoulder and made the scheme an overwhelming success, meeting too many challenges on their way. Central Bank of India opened 7.06 million accountsunder the scheme as at the end of December 2015, out of which as much as 80 per cent - 5.56 million accounts -werein rural areas.

Under the PMJDY proposal all the six lakh villages in the country are proposed to be mapped according to the Service Area of each commercial bank. Each areamust have at least one fixed point banking outlet catering to the needs of 1000 to 1500 households, which is called Sub Service Area (SSA). Each bank has been allotted SSAs in their respective lead districts. The SSAs have to be covered through a combination of banking outlets, both branch banking and business-correspondent (BC) driven branch-less banking. Central Bank of India was allotted as many as 7923 SSAs. While its branches cover 1536 SSAs, BC points cover 6387 SSAs. Besides these,its Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Rajasthan cover more than 3000 SSAs, making the total number of SSAs under Central Bank to 11,100.

Generally, branch executives visit SSAs allotted to it on regular basis, as a part of the outreach programme. But Central Bank wants the visit of its executives to be different and constructively focused, with something special that ensures strong impact in the places its executives go. Accordingly it has prepared a set of guidelines for the intended branch managers asking them to organise the Outreach programme in an objective and result-oriented manner by involving various activities for wider and more enthusiastic public participation. Every visit should have a larger connotation, beyond just being a formal duty. It has, thus, drawn a broad and comprehensive structure for the outreach programme comprising various activities. In fact, the bank has drawn broad guidelines for its executives who spearhead each such outreach programme.Wherever the bank finds suitability and synergy of using its CSR activities, it carries out the same also along with the Outreach programme, adding further value to the programme.  Last year, the bank conducted two hundred and thirty one Outreach programmes.

To make the programme as best and most effective as possible, the management has drawn a guideline by which BCs should be informed in advance about the programme to ensure their active participation with their plans, perspectives and ideas to improvise the financial inclusion programme. The bank wants BCs to set up stall in the camp and be ready for demo to the people on how a bank account could be opened, how a debit card is operated at the ATMs, how a transaction is done through AEPs and RuPay cards, etc. The BCs give details about the schemes that the bank offers and facilitate people to take home what they are eligible for.Earlier the bank was using smart card biometrics, mobile based biometric solutions and non-biometric solutions for transacting at BC Outlets. But now this system has been dispensed with the roll-out of online transactions through the bank’s Core Banking Solution (CBS) on real time basis. The transactions are authenticated through biometrics in the smart card and mobile based biometric solutions and through a one-time-password (OTP) in the non-biometric solutions on the customers’ mobile registered with the bank.The BCs, who usually cover 1000 to 1500 households in areas where bank branch is not available, carry hand-held machine that connects with the one’s bank account making it easier for village people to transact with their accounts through the machine. They also reach out to people with their machines, if the needy ones cannot reach them. In some cases, the benefits of government sponsored schemes are also delivered through them in places like Bihar, if the customer is unable to travel up to BC Points. At outreach programmes, people are also explained about financial and social security schemes. In Central Bank, the BCs are appointed through corporate business correspondent model and BC Agent, who generally serve on an average 1000 to 1500 households. They provide facilities for deposits, remittance, enrolment under social security schemes, account opening, aadhar seeding, managing loan accounts, loan recovery and other services that the bank comes out with at different times.     

Besides BCs, the outreach programmes also invite directors of RSETIs and counselors of Financial Literacy and Credit Counseling centres (FLCCs), if they are posted within the region to have their presence and set up stalls in the premise for imparting information on various products, services and benefits of various government schemes like PMJDY, PMJJBY, APY, Mudra Bank Yojana, and activities of RSETI centres. Besides them, the outreach programme also should always invite officials of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), government officials, local representatives, village Sarpanchs and Pradhans. The combined presence of BCs, Lead District Managers, Director of RSETIs and FLCC Counselors makes the outreach programme truly comprehensive and constructive.

As a step ahead, the bank tries to make the Outreach programme more appealing through accommodating themes of social importance like BetiBachao, BetiPadao, JalSwavalambanYojana, SukanyaSamridhi, KushalVikas, GaribKalyanYojana, NaiManzilYojanaetc - or about schemes which have local relevance.

The outreach programmeof Central Bank of India also sets a massive focus on aadhar seeding, RuPay Card distribution and activitation, deposit money in the zero balance accounts, cut the instances of inoperative accounts, enrolment under social security schemes, etc. The bank encourages its branches to look at opportunities for disbursing small loans under the government sponsored schemes like MUDRA, KCC, etc during the camp. The bank tries to doll up the programme by arranging health check-up blood donation camp with the involvement of insurance companies like Cholamandalam and Bajaj Allianz.

Another initiative taken by the bank to make the programme more appealing among cross-section of people is its focus on students' and teachers' participation. Since each branch in such programmes are run across the country required to adopt a school, its programme can ensure students' participation of at least from one school. During the months of September, October and November, such programmes are given value by organising quiz, elocution on contemporary themes and subjects, arts and sports competition, etc for school children, so that many students from more than one school can participate in the event more enthusiastically. At the conclusion of the event, outstanding participants can be felicitated with some compliments and teachers too, on the basis of some merits. Such steps will bring the name of the bank closer to them and ensure better brand recall.

Its admirable efforts haven't gone unnoticed. The bank was conferred Best Bank Award for Financial Inclusion 2014 by Chamber of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (CIMSME). In the same year, it also won Special Plaque for Best Performance under PMJDY -2014. Similarly, the banks also bagged PMJDY Award of Excellence in the financial year 2014-15 from Federation of Industries, Trade and Services (FITS). More significant was its achievements in the following year, whenit secured first Rank in maximum per cent achievements of identified households coverage for a period between 16th August 2015 and 26th January 2015 under PMJDY from Department of Financial Services. National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) awarded the bank first rank as Best Financial Inclusion provider in the year 2015-16, thanks to the dedicated approach and spirit of mission that the bank has inherited and retained since the days of social banking. The list of recognition is long and achievements enormous by all metrics, besides being monetarily beneficial to the impoverished rural masses.

Ultimately, as public sector bank with sense of social commitment, Central Bank of India is thinking and moving beyond the conventional style in in organising its Outreach progamme to ensure that its social banking gesture is admirably appealing, innovative and result-oriented, of course with a wisdom.

·     Unlike the routine Outreach programmes that commercial banks usually carry out, Central Bank wants its programmes to be a memorable rural fair integrated with delivery of various financial services and social security schemes, as well as awareness about various local and national schemes relevant to their rural life, benefits available from them, with wide participation of people from all walks of life..

  The bank has designed Outreach programmes for adding better value and to make it more constructive with a wide socio-economic connotation, in line with its ethos of serving the people in every stage of their life. SAMUHIK is the best example. This project aims to meet one’s needs across all stages of life. The acronym of SAMUHIK –Schools, Aadhar seeding, MUDRA loan, Unemployment to employment, Health awareness, Insurance for social security and Know-how for skill development, broadly specifies what the bank intends to do

·         Through SAMUHIM the bank promises that its services would cater to the need of people of all ages across their life under various schemes. Under the scheme the bank would work for bringing financial literacy among school children, Aadhar seeding for getting benefits directly into the savings account under various government schemes, imparting self-employment training and skill upgradation training for youths to enable them to find jobs, credit assistance under MUDRA scheme for setting up enterprises, support for health check-up and soil testing. This will be implemented in a different manner to ensure that each of the programmes delivers a gamut of services and awareness about financial and so-economic aspects, which are important in everyone’s life, says Dr R.C Lodha.


Some of the socially important programmes of Central Bank of India

·         In the year 2014 Mr Rajeev Rishi, Chairman and Managing Director of Central Bank of India visited Manki village, on Chandigarh-Ludhiana Highway, under Samrala Block of Ludhiana District, as a part of the bank’s outreach Programme. The bank has opened what it called an Ultra Small branch at the Village to provide banking services at the villagers’ doorstep. The bank has distributed smart cards to its customers under the Financial Inclusion Programme. It also distributed school bags to children of families belonging to below–poverty-line (BPL) under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).


“The future of India lies in its villages,”Mahatma Gandhi had found many years ago. Indeed, rural India is the heart of the nation. A vibrant rural economy makes the overall national economy vibrant and sustainably strong to ensure a bright future. There are many government schemes and massive efforts by commercial banks to reach out to the rural masses for propelling socio-economic growth and get them integrated with the new world of services and opportunities. Central Bank truly believes that a routine exercise in the name of Outreach programme is not enough to spark off the grass-root approach. It realises the need of nudging its rural apparatus to take up more constructive, innovative and result-oriented activities based on a far-reaching theme.