There is little doubt that our financial media is highly biased towards its coverage of just large city based banks. Most of these banks are largely transactional in nature which just attract lot of attention due to their scale of operations and jazz surrounding them. The media hardly covers small relationship banks which are playing an equally important role serving small people in remote locations.
So getting to know about Konoklota Mahila Urban Cooperative Bank via this story is really nice. The bank is an all women bank (employees and customers) based in Jorhat (Assam). It was started in 1998 by Lakhimi Barua. In a way it was a precursor to Mahila Union Bank launched by the UPA Government which was more out of populism than designing it to really serve women customers.
Before starting KMUCB, Lakhimi worked in a bank, which made her aware of how deprived and illiterate women barely manage to benefit from banking services.
She had also started a Mahila Samiti in 1983 at Dakshin Sarbaibandha area of Jorhat district, where she worked with a large number of economically and educationally backward women. These women remained financially insecure, even when they were engaged in some income generation activities, because they did not have any saving habits or financial literacy.
After working for several years in the region, Lakhimi was sure that immediate intervention was required.
Finally, in 1998, she was able to start KMUCB in Jorhat, with an initial capital of 8.46 lakh. The bank received its licence from the Reserve Bank of India in 2000. Lakhimi quit her job and dedicated her life to KMUCB.
The bank only has women employees.
Today KMUCB has over 25,000 accounts and a working capital of over Rs. 6 crores. The bank has four branches in three districts. Over 300 self-help groups have benefited from various credit schemes of the bank. The bank has become so successful that it gets over 250 customers every day.
About 75% of the beneficiaries are illiterate and belong to the labour class. Also, about 65% of the customers belong to SC, ST and OBC classes.
“The idea is to engage and help women from all sections of the community, irrespective of their caste and background. The gates of the bank are open for all those women who genuinely need help,” Lakhimi says.
The bank has helped many women save their hard-earned money, which would otherwise be misused by family members and alcoholic husbands. As these women become regular visitors to the bank, they often share their personal issues with the employees.
More power to such banks. We should get more such stories in the mainstream media as well.