Amitava Banerjee, HT, 8 Nov 2016, DARJEELING: At a time when cash famine has taken business to an unprecedented low, shopkeepers and grocers in the Hills are making a beeline for installing swipe machines to boost business. As a collateral benefit, banks too are doing brisk business since the traders need a current account to install these machines that are known as Electronic Data Capture (EDC) machines in banking parlance.
The cash crunch has triggered increased sales for all those who receive payment through non-cash modes such as e-commerce sites, e-wallets and swipe cards. Incidentally, the lack of cash has come as a boon to the bank personnel in the hills who could hardly convince customers about the need of current accounts and their benefits. “There are a lot of inquiries and applications. Even grocery shops and neighbourhood sweet shops want to install EDCs. They are opening current accounts which the EDCs are linked to,” said Manoj Gurung, branch head of HDFC Bank, Darjeeling.
While there were hardly any enquiry for EDCs at his bank, post demonitisation the branch personnel are in the process of installing 10 EDCs. Since last week there is a 15% rise in the opening of current accounts.
“Despite aggressive marketing for swipe machines and current accounts only a few business establishments in the hills evinced interest. In the past five days, we have for 25 requisitions,” said Tamal Majumder, branch head, Axis Bank.
“Earlier we used to open about 20 current accounts in a month. In the past five days, the number has shot up to to 25. The number would have gone up if we were able to entertain more enquiries for EDCs, which we could not do due to the pressure of customers depositing and exchanging notes,” added Majumder. In the Hills most of the business establishments have suffered a sharp drop in sales following the fateful announcement of the prime minister on November 8. “We have a 40% drop in sales with a cash famine in all segments of the population. The only way to survive is to install a swipe machine. I have already applied for one,” Rahul Gupta of Benis Sweet Parlour told HT.
However, most PSU banks are groaning under the rush of customers and are not entertaining requests for EDCs. “I inquired for a swipe machine at a PSU bank as the minimum balance for current accounts is less than that in private banks. They told me that it will take time and cannot be done immediately” said Ritesh Gupta, owner of a grocery shop.
However, those who are rushing for swipe machines are aware of the poor connectivity in the Hills. “For the past three days the swipe machines are not working as most of the BSNL lines are down. We have customers but can’t sell,” said Rajesh Verma, a jeweller.