When the State Bank of India opened a branch in the IIT Madras Research Park on January 7 this year, its unstated but obvious objective was to capture start-ups on the rise. IIT Madras Research Park is both a corporate R&D hub and a start-up incubation centre, the latter having spawned 300-odd start-ups that have a total valuation of about ₹40,000 crore. 

The first year’s performance has shown that it was a good move. Debashish Mishra, General Manager, SBI, Chennai, has told businessline that in the very first month, the branch garnered 30 ‘shubaarambh’ (‘auspicious beginning’) current accounts that were opened with deposits of ₹17 crore. Three start-ups have been provided financial assistance under the MSME Udaan scheme and another four proposals are under consideration.  

At a time when the world is worried about the availability of funds to start-ups in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank meltdown, SBI’s ‘start-up branch’ is a zephyr of relief. “Our start-up branch at IITM Research Park in Chennai is a gateway for the young entrepreneurs to the financial world,” says R Radhakrishna, Chief General Manager, SBI, Chennai. “Being the largest bank in the country, we are poised to support the whole start-up ecosystem through simple, responsive and transformative financial solutions,” he says. 

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A physical presence plonk in the middle of the start-ups is proving to be helpful. Each Friday, between 10 am and noon, the branch holds a ‘Weekly start-up Connect’, where informal interactions between entrepreneurs and senior officials of the IIT Madras Incubation Cell, SBI Caps, and Angel investors happen. 

Mishra says the branch is seeing fast action. For instance, a start-up called Neo-motion, which has invented a motorised wheelchair that affords personal mobility to handicapped persons, plans to manufacture 50,000 units in the next two years. “We have proposed a loan product,” says Mishra. Another ed-tech start-up, Guvi Geek Pvt Ltd, a Guinness Book record holder in skill development, is tying up with SBI for providing education loans to students and employees through its Vidyalakshmi portal. 

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Mishra says that in the near term, SBI would bring in “intensive workshops” on financial inclusion and agri tech. “These two areas are scaling up substantially and we foresee significant banking opportunities in these fields,” he says. 

“What we have started on the 7th of January this year will be a landmark for the start-up ecosystem of Tamil Nadu,” Mishra said.