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ICICI Bank launches 'branch on wheels'

MUMBAI: As part of its financial inclusion initiative, ICICI Bank today claimed to have become the first private sector lender to launch a 'branch-on-wheels' drive and will have five more such facilities in three states this year. 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan launched the branch-on-wheel in sugar hub of Kolhapur today. 

"ICICI Bank has always tried to take a holistic approach to provide financial services in rural and remote areas. Accordingly, it has already launched 308 gramin branches to provide basic banking services in unbanked villages and plan to scale it up to 500 this fiscal," ICICI Bank Executive Director Rajiv Sabharwal told. 

The branch-on-wheels is yet another step to expand the reach to villages devoid of banking facilities, he said, adding the bank will be launching one more such facility in Maharashtra and two each in Odisha and Chhattisgrah this year, after assessing the success of the pilot project. 

On the reason for choosing Maharashtra for this pilot project, he said the bank has nearly 17 per cent or 560 branches in the state, out of which 103 are in rural areas, including 43 gramin branches in unbanked villages across 10 districts. The bank operates 308 gramin branches. 

Overall, one in every two branch of the bank is in rural/ semi-urban areas, he said. 

Under the financial inclusion drive, which started in 2010, the bank has opened 350 branches in unbanked areas and will take this number to 500 by the end of the fiscal, Sabharwal said . 

These 350 branches, spanning 15,000 villages in 16 states, have 16 million accounts. These villages are served by 7,500 customer service points, he added. 

On the branch-on-wheels, Sabharwal said two mobile branch will have two employees, and offers every facility that a full-fledged branch offers, such as an ATM, a cash recycler among others and will cover four villages. 

On the profitability of the rural branches, he did not offer a number but said normally a branch takes 18-24 months to turn around.