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Saturday, Mar 09, 2002

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SBI kisan card turns FMCG golden goose

Rajalakshmi Menon

MUMBAI, March 8

HERE is a "golden'' opportunity for white goods manufactures to tap the rural market.

They can take a cue from State Bank of India, which has found to its surprise that most farmers are using its recently-launched Kisan Gold Card scheme for purchase of goods such as TVs and refrigerators rather than farm inputs.

The scheme, which works like a term loan, has been a huge hit with farmers where most of the cards issued were used to buy consumer durables.

A bank official said, "There were no loans available for farmers to buy personal items, which left a huge gap in this segment. Previously, term loans were only available to purchase farm equipment.''

SBI's Chandigarh circle alone has issued around 3,000 of the 4,000 cards issued so far. The bank hopes to issue 10,000 cards by March-end.

Personal items can be purchased on the card to the extent of 50 per cent of the loan availed.

A maximum of Rs 5 lakh can be availed of on the card, repayable over a period of 5-7 years. Interest on the loan is 12 per cent for loans up to Rs 2 lakh and 13 per cent above Rs 2 lakh.

Farmers can get loans up to five times the annual farm income or 50 per cent of the value of the land as collateral, whichever is lower.

For the next year, the bank has set an ambitious target of issuing 1,37,000 cards.

To this end, the eligibility criteria have also been relaxed. So far, farmers with a good repayment record in the last five years were eligible for the card.

The bank is now planning to modify this by offering cards to farmers with a good record for the past two years. The scheme will also be extended this scheme to new borrowers.

Branches have been set the target of issuing cards to at least five per cent of those farmers covered under term loans. Next year, this target will be raised to 15 per cent.

SBI also offers the Kisan credit card scheme, through which the bank has issued around 1.2 million cards as on December 2001, with a total outlay of Rs 2,400 crore.

By the end of the year, the bank plans to issue around 1.5 million cards with a total outlay of Rs 3,000 crore.

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