Santanu Sanyal

Kolkata, Nov 1

The issues of slipping marketshare and not-so-satisfactory record with regard to customer service dominated the discussion the SBI Chairman, Mr O.P. Bhatt, recently had with 14 Chief General Managers, each heading a circle.

The meeting was held in Kolkata for the first time. The two Managing Directors and all the Deputy Managing Directors, among other senior officials, were also present.

The meeting noted with concern that the SBI, both as an entity and as a group, was fast losing market share.

The group's market share declined from more than 30 per cent to around 25 per cent in the past few years, while SBI's own market share dropped from around 25 per cent to 21 per cent.

If the economy could grow at eight per cent and was poised for a double-digit growth, there was no reason why SBI, the largest commercial bank in the country, should not be able to grow and also to hold on its market share, if not increase it, it was felt.

The bank and its associates were not lagging in technology or reach or in expertise. The not-so-satisfactory level of customer service in SBI and its associates, it was felt, was more due to other factors.

First, the average age profile of the employees is skewed at more than 50 years. As a result, retraining and re-skilling efforts do not always yield the optimum.

HR challenges

Another factor was the strength of the unions. Over the years, the unions had grown in strength and succeeded from time to time in forcing the management to yield to their pressure.

The meeting came to the conclusion that this was not in tune with current-day requirements. It is difficult to transfer an employee from one branch to another or from one job to another. Redeployment and rationalisation of manpower has thus become a challenging exercise.

SBI is mulling several options to increase market share; these include widening the customer base by enrolling new customers, strengthening the depth of the existing customers and exploring new opportunities.

The HR issues would be difficult to tackle but the management, it was felt, must go for fresh recruitment of young people selectively. There should also be a move for new transfer norms.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 3, 2006)
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