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Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004

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Only a decade and all decayed?

D. Murali

AS it usually happens, our small world is divided into two - those with money in GTB and those without. The problem with the `with' category is that they suddenly feel `without,' ever since the RBI pulled the rug under the feet of Gande. While customers are asking all sorts of questions, employees of the bank too have queries for which their V-P (Operations) conducted a special class. Here is some help for both the groups.

Everybody is shouting at me. Shall I go on leave?

Tough job for you, at the counter, I suppose, in one of the many GTB branches. Don't run away. Your customers know you're not the villain; they're simply giving vent to their anguish. You may not be able to solve their problems, but put up a sympathetic face because their anger can escalate if they see you sharing a joke with your colleague, as most bank employees are wont to, in normal times.

Who? Why? How much?

It appears that you're a highly disturbed customer; so much so, your questions are not even coming out coherently. First, who created the crisis? Answer: GTB says RBI, and RBI says GTB.

Next, why did the problem occur? Because the bank's NPAs (meaning non-performing assets, a decent name for money lent that is not coming back) are high. Last, how much? Rs 10,000 per account, maximum, as per the moratorium.

I want to see the boss!

Ah, I can almost hear you banging the desk and thumping your feet at the reception. The MD is busy, so here is what he has said: "The bank still enjoys unperturbed strengths such as technology platform, multiple delivery channels network, retail and corporate customer base, internal systems and procedures and talented and dedicated workforce." Only, it may not mean much to you.

Why so much fuss?

You must be one of those bystanders, unaffected by the crisis. But we're talking about a bank that has almost one million customers, 104 branches and 275 ATMs in 34 cities across the country.

A sudden limit such as Rs 10,000 for three months can be devastating for customers who have commitments beyond that amount to be met out of their money in their accounts. Think of an account holder who has been saving a few lakhs for his daughter's marriage coming up in a month.

Or an employer who has to pay his staff out of his current account, or an employee who has issued post-dated cheques for EMI to repay his housing loan. Would you still call all this a fuss?

Only a decade and all decayed?

True, it can be horrifying to know that the bank was born only in 1994 and its IPO was over-subscribed 60 times! That on its first day deposits touched Rs 100 crore, and in less than five years, deposit base grew to Rs 4,000 crore. That it was assisted by the Asian Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation. That its promoter Ramesh Gelli was "the first Indian banker to bag the Padmashri in 1990". It is a different story that the RBI had to ask Gelli to step down from GTB board about three years ago, after the much-hyped marriage proposal of GTB with the groom UTI Bank broke off when they found that the bride's plastic surgery came a-peeling, and that Ketan Parekh was busy in the pantry. Signs of decay, one may say, but what's amazing is that so many people continued to keep their money in the bank, on account of `good service'.

I've lost all faith in humanity and especially bankers!

A common dejection that sets in after major catastrophes. Time is the best healer and it is quite possible that after three months again things start looking bright. And you too start feeling all right!

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