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SBI plans first-ever floating ATM in Kerala

George Iype in Kochi | December 30, 2003 12:29 IST
Last Updated: December 30, 2003 12:31 IST

A floating automated teller machine?

Yes, India's banking behemoth -- the State Bank of India -- is all set to launch the world's first-ever floating ATM on a boat in Kerala.

SBI officials say a floating ATM will take banking to the people, especially the tourists, who flock to God's Own Country.

The ATM has already been fitted on a ferry and is undergoing trial runs. The code division multiple access (CDMA) technology is used for keeping it operational.

The floating boat with the ATM on board will berth at jetties in Kerala's huge backwaters through which hundreds of thousands of people travel daily.

The floating ATM will also touch hotels, resorts and places of worship along the waterfronts.

According to B Rajagopal, SBI's chief manager for personnel and services in Kerala, Kerala's large backwater stretch is an ideal location for launching a floating ATM.

"The floating ATM is in the final stages of completion and we will officially launch it in the coming days," Rajagopal told rediff.com.

The official said that it is for the first time in the world that a commercial bank is opening a stand-alone floating ATM. At present a floating ATM is operational on board the Queen Mary II, the world's largest passenger cruiser; but that is along with a bank branch aboard.

Officials like Rajagopal foresee tremendous potential for the floating ATM in a state like Kerala, which has a large backwater stretch of nearly 1,900 kilometers.

"We are taking banking to the people. The ATM on a boat is another value-added service from the SBI," Rajagopal added.

SBI is the largest and oldest commercial bank in India in terms of profits, assets, deposits, branches and employees. The bank has 1,138 ATMs across the country.

Apart from having a nationwide presence, SBI has its arms spread over the country through its seven associates -- State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Indore, State Bank of Saurashtra, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad and State Bank of Travancore.

SBI officials disclosed that the idea of a floating ATM in Kerala came up because hundreds of thousands of people in the state use numerous boat jetties across the state for daily travel.

Moreover, several hotels, resorts and places of worship such as churches, mosques and temples are located on waterfronts across Kerala. Since festivities at these places of worship attract a large number of people, officials believe a floating ATM will attract good business.

Kerala's backwaters act as vital waterways for the transport of people and goods. SBI officials said that the backwater traffic is a good market to tap with the floating ATM.

SBI officials are confident that the floating ATM will be of immense help to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to Kerala these days.

Almost 7 million tourists visited Kerala last year. Tourism officials who say there has been a surge in tourist arrivals this season and all the hotels and resorts across Kerala are full, with some of them already closing bookings for the next two months.

SBI's innovative floating ATM is certain to spur other banks in the state to launch similar facilities across the backwaters.

When contacted, a senior Federal Bank official said that the bank would first study the backwater traffic before launching a floating ATM.

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