KOLKATA: The Tatas may not have got permission to open a bank yet, but they are taking big strides in financial inclusion, a condition that helps a company get a licence.
The least-banked districts are priority for the Tatas, which is pushing for cash delivery through white-label ATMs, which are not owned and operated by any bank. The Reserve Bank of India has permitted non-banking companies to deploy white-label ATMs, allowing customers to withdraw cash from these machines using debit cards of any bank, in an effort to reach out to the deepest pockets of the country.
The Tata group company, Tata CommunicationsBSE 2.88 % Payment Solution, has got RBI clearance to instal 15,000 ATMs in the next three years, two-third of which will be in smaller towns. It said it will roll out three machines in the rural belt and 17 in semi-urban districts for every 10 machines installed in bigger cities, in line with the country's financial inclusion agenda. The group has installed 400 machines so far.
The company is the first one to launch white-label ATM network in India; others like Muthoot FinanceBSE 4.14 %, SREI Infrastructure FinanceBSE 2.08 %, Prizm Payments and AGS Transact are among the 12 that have got in-principle approval from the banking regulator to instal ATMs.
"ATM density is low in India and there's enough space for everyone to do business," Tata Communications Payment CEO Sanjeev Patel said, after announcing the ATM roll-out plan in Bengal. "We have chosen West Bengal reasonably early in our strategy. Low ATM density in northern parts of West Bengal makes it an attractive region," he said.
In the first year of deployment, the wholly-owned Tata Communication subsidiary will focus on seven states - Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, Patel said. India is an under-penetrated ATM market with only 98 ATMs for every 10 lakh of population. ATM density in China is 211; in the UK, it is 530; and in the USA, it is 1,390. White-label ATMs account for nearly 50% of ATMs in the US and 70% in Canada.
Within India, Chandigarh has the highest ATM density with 400 machines for every 10 lakh people, while the density is 180 in Tamil Nadu, 141 in Maharashtra and 71 in West Bengal. Maharashtra, with 15,000 ATMs, has the highest number of ATMs; West Bengal ranks eighth with 6,500 ATMs.