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ATMs spring up at Mumbai stations
Priya Ganapati in Mumbai | May 02, 2003
Mumbai's estimated 6 million suburban train commuters are finding a new addition to their landscape: ATM booths.
Western Railways has sanctioned 35 locations between Churchgate to Borivali stations to three banks, UTI Bank, Punjab National Bank and Corporation Bank, to set up automated teller machine booths on or adjacent to railway stations.
Apart, from their repertoire of various financial services, the ATM booths will provide an important value-addition. Commuters can book their season suburban train tickets from these booths too.
"Our purpose is to get one more way of setting suburban train ticket booking closer to our customers," says Shailendra Kumar, chief public relations officer, Western Railway.
UTI Bank has been allotted 15 locations, Punjab National Bank has been given eight and Corporation Bank has been given 12. The contracts were awarded about five months ago after a competitive bidding process.
Western Railway will earn Rs 1.38 crore (Rs 13.8 million) annually as 'license fees and ground rates' from this arrangement
For banks, the ATMs are a way to leverage the large transient population that passes through these stations everyday and capture them.
"Railways have a very heavy traffic load, many of whom are our customers already. We see this as an additional way to bring our services closer to our customers and help in customer acquisition," says Hemant Kaul, senior vice-president, retail banking, UTI Bank.
Meanwhile, Central Railway too has such a similar proposal running on an experimental basis. It has allotted two spots to the State Bank of India at two key stations in Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) and Dadar.
A Central Railway spokesperson said that the Railways is open to new proposals from other banks for such spots and will actively consider any requests submitted to it.
Railway platforms and property have, however, on numerous occasions borne the burnt of commuter violence. During such spells considerable damage has been done to various properties on the stations, including the destruction of clocks, indicators and advertising hoardings.
The possibility of damage to ATMs from commuter rage, does not, perturb the banks in this experiment too much.
UTI Bank's Kaul says that the bank has posted an armed guard outside each one of its ATMs.
"In violence in other parts of the city too ATM banks have been targeted. During the recent violence in Gujarat, a few of our ATMs were damaged. We see this all as the cost of doing business in India," says Kaul.
The ATMs are expected to be operational shortly.
"The civil works matter needs to be completed and we are waiting for approvals from the regulator (the Reserve Bank of India) and also from the Railways," says Kaul.
Meanwhile, Western Railway is slowly expanding the scope of the idea beyond suburban stations. It has awarded two locations at Surat station and one at Valsad to ICICI Bank.
"We are starting with the suburban stations in a big way and then based on the results we will expand into the non-suburban areas too. If this is successful we could enter into a tie-up with the banks where you can book tickets at any ATM in the city," says Kumar.