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Srei Infra to open more Sahaj e-Village centres

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on May 15, 2018 Published on May 15, 2018

Hemant Kanoria, CMD, Srei Infra   -  Debashish Bhaduri

These centres offer a variety of services

Evolving from a G2C (government to consumer) service provider to one offering a host of financial and non-financial services, Sahaj e-Village, an initiative of Srei Infrastructure Finance, is now on expansion mode. Now, there are close to 75,000 Sahaj centres.

According to Hemant Kanoria, Chairman and Managing Director, Srei Infra, plans are afoot to take this number to two lakh in the next two years.

A majority of these new centres will come up in semi-urban areas as against its present practice of being present in rural areas only.

Sahaj, which operates through village-level entrepreneurs and common service centres, has leveraged its network to offer services, including physical retailing of consumables, selling financial services — banking and insurance products — through banking correspondents, and e-training and skill development.

“We started about 10 years ago and Sahaj’s business model was probably ahead of its time. The awareness on digitisation happened post demonetisation, which helped Sahaj,” Kanoria told BusinessLine.

Sahaj, which had been struggling as the government business came in ‘fits and starts’, has evolved over time. “Government guidelines keep changing. But our model is now commercially viable,” he said.

Even while Kanoria plans to expand Sahaj’s scope of business, he is also open to the idea of “unlocking the value of its investments” (in Sahaj) through a stake dilution, during this fiscal.

“When our initiatives attain a certain scale and maturity, we harvest the investments through stake dilution. For Sahaj, too, we will follow this philosophy. We will look for all attractive investments in Sahaj this year,” he said.

Kanoria, however, refused to set any target in terms of valuation for the possible stake sale.

Growth in core areas

Srei Infrastructure, Kanoria said, will continue to expand and focus on its core equipment financing business.

There has been a rise in equipment sales thanks to the increased investments in roads, irrigation and mining by the government.

This has helped boost its equipment finance business.

Srei has presence in most areas of infrastructure equipment financing business, from construction and mining gear to agriculture, healthcare and IT equipment.

“Our group will continue to focus on roads, power, SEZs, and other sub-sectors of the infrastructure industry. We will continue to have a well-diversified portfolio on infrastructure projects,” he said.

On the project financing front, Srei has been focussing more on providing structured finance now, particularly for brownfield projects.

The company, which has been able to curtail a rise in non-performing assets in FY’18, hopes to reduce further to around 1.25-1.5 per cent by this fiscal year-end.

Published on May 15, 2018
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