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Banks out to woo desi diva

Arti Sharma | November 01, 2003

There's a new group of people who are banking on woman power. After years of scouting for any kind of customers, Indian banks are now recognising the increasing number of financially savvy women (working and non-working) and are launching differentiated products tailor-made to suit their needs.

Take, for example, Citibank and ICICI Bank, both of which launched Women's Accounts about a month ago.

These accounts are essentially variations of normal savings accounts with features like discounts and alliances for shopping with a debit or credit card or insurance products for the family.

Currently, ICICI Bank has just test launched the product in Hyderabad, but it plans to launch it in other parts of the country within a month or so.

Even Standard Chartered has introduced a credit card called Diva especially for women, which includes features like a free annual all-women's health check-up at any of the 18 Apollo hospitals and health clinics.

Why are banks so keen to woo Indian women?

"Our research has shown that while many of the accounts may be opened in the name of the man, it is the lady of the house who is making the decisions of where to spend and save," says Anup Bagchi, joint general manager, ICICI Bank.

Adds Kalpana Iyer, business manager -- women's banking, Citibank, "There is a need gap for banking and investments products for women. And now more than ever, the Indian woman is more aware and demanding of her own needs in financial services."

What differentiates ICICI Bank's Women's Account from its normal savings account are the value-added features it offers.

The account comes with a specially designed recurring deposit scheme in which the minimum amount invested is Rs 500 as against the normal Rs 1,000. There are no tax deductions at source on the recurring deposit as well.

Additionally, for an annual premium amount of Rs 60, the account comes with a family shield personal accident insurance cover of Rs 200,000 (in case of surface accidents) or Rs 400,000 (in case of air accidents).

And if the woman is a mother, she can also opt for the "Young Star" account for her children, which will help her inculcate a habit to save in them.

But apart from all this, the account comes with special discounts and alliances attached to the credit and debit cards with various women-centric retail and hospitality companies.

All other features, of the account remain the same as a savings bank account.

Similarly, Citibank's product offers a host of flexible options for women. The product is available across the country. It has features common to a normal savings account and comes with a free CitiCard, which is an internationally accepted ATM and debit card.

Citibank launched its woman-centric credit card way back in 1998. The card comes with special offers and discounts for outlets that might interest a woman, like discounts in beauty and health products, entertainment and shopping.

The reward points also revolve around women. For instance, if a free gift on a purchase for a man was a wallet, the women's credit card might gift the cardholder an offer to get her hair done at a nearby salon.

This apart, the account comes with a critical illness insurance of up to Rs 50,000. And being a Woman's Accountholder will get you special discounts on loans for either a car or home.

The discount will be decided on an individual basis as per repayment capacity and other factors.

The card will also lead to special invites to events that will be held periodically and the benefits accruing from the account can also be extended to the accountholder's family.

The bank also offers the holder financial management expertise in case the account holder wants to customise a financial plan for her family.

Says Iyer, "The product secures the woman and her family's financial future, offers her special discounts, provides a unique rewards programme on her Woman's Account debit card amongst other offerings."

Standard Chartered's Diva credit card comes with similar trappings.

The card offers, apart from the free annual check-up at Apollo Hospitals and health clinics, a 10 per cent discount at 42 Lakme Beauty Salons across India and the use of services of Les Concierge for any regular errands, chores or household jobs.

The services of Les Concierge come with a price tag ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 70 for errands like purchase of tickets for movies, plays, airlines, trains, holidays, payment of utility bills, maid referencing, pest control, home cleaning and such.

"With the rising number of working women who are continuously juggling between home and work, extensive research showed that health, beauty and convenience in running a household are the three most important things," says Shyam Srinivasan, general manager and head -- credit cards and personal loans, Standard Chartered.

The card also offers free insurance packages for the card member and her family like an accident insurance cover for self and spouse, a child educational allowance, medical and purchase protection insurance.

It is currently available for customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune at an annual fee of Rs 700 and a joining fee of Rs 100.

If you are not looking for a separate credit card or savings bank account, but instead need a loan. Corporation Bank has a specially designed a loan scheme called Corp Mahila Gold to finance working and non-working women who want to purchase gold bars or ornaments.

The scheme is available to resident Indian women in the age group of 18-58 years.

In case of a working woman, the salary account has to be maintained with the bank, or an undertaking letter has to come from the employer to remit the monthly equated installment.

Non-working women can submit their spouses' or relatives' income proof as co-obligant. The minimum loan amount is Rs 10,000 and the maximum is Rs 250,000 and the rate of interest is 12.25 per cent per annum to be repaid within 60 months.

"In case women desire to save in the form of gold bar or gold ornaments for their immediate or future requirements, this scheme provides that benefit," says a Corporation Bank manager.

Essentially, most of these products target a young, upwardly mobile woman who would like to have options to manage her personal finances presented to her.

Apart from roping in new customers, banks also hope to tap existing male customer bases to cross-sell these products. Whether women actually lap up these offers is to be seen.

But bankers say the segmentation of the market to provide value-added products specifically for target groups is a welcome change. At the end of it all, women consumers have some more choices to make.

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