How Bandhan Bank is trying to straddle the urban-rural divide?

Bandhan on getting a bank licence had this enormous challenge. How and whether it should move away from its rural image? In one way there was no choice but to go for urban customers as that was the whole idea of getting a bank licence. It was doing fine being rural as an MFI. But as a bank one needs to go beyond the comfort zone and reach out to others.

Supposedly it is walking the tight rope well so far. It tried to sensitise urban customers into making their contributions for poor by banking with Bandhan:

Bandhan became a universal (in common parlance a regular) bank in August 2015. “There was debate within the company on whether Bandhan’s rural image should be preserved or not as we were transitioning to a universal bank. We decided that it would be prudent to retain the rural connect even as we expanded our horizons, targeting urban consumers,” Ghosh said.

As an MFI, Bandhan’s tagline was ‘Hope for the Poor’. The launch campaign, conceptualised and executed by Ogilvy & Mather, fused the past and the present using the tagline ‘Aapka Bhala, Sabki Bhalai’. The rationale, explains Ghosh, was that if you did good, you could help the poor. It was a message to urban customers to try out the bank’s services, and consequently, help the poor.

A series of six short television commercials were launched as part of the campaign. ‘Marksheet’, for instance, shows a young girl proudly showing off her exam results at her new school. She gathers all her friends to say thank you to a Bandhan account holder who made it possible for her to attend a good school. ‘Cricket’ shows a young boy boasting about his skill in cricket and thanking a Bandhan customer for enabling him to attend a school that has a good cricket programme. The campaign was also taken to the digital medium.

Bandhan’s branding strategy, which aims to attract urban customers for deposits, while continuing focus on rural consumers for loans, has paid off, executives say. Bandhan, they say, has been aggressive in garnering deposits from urban areas, even as its rural base continues to grow.

To put things in perspective: In 2015-16, Bandhan collected about Rs 12,000 crore as deposits. Out of this, nearly a third came from corporate clients and more than 60 per cent from urban centres. At the same time, gross advances for the period under review stood at Rs 15,500 crore. Of this, close to 99 per cent of the credit was given to customers in rural and semi-urban centres as microfinance. 

….

“From a small farmer in a remote village to salaried executives in urban centres. is now ready to serve the affluent Indian diaspora in sync with its core philosophy,” Ghosh says. The tightrope walk between the urban and rural consumer for Bandhan is on.

Too early to call it a success. But yes, the start has been decent and surprising to most..

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