India’s first all-women national bank, Bharatiya Mahila Bank, was launched in November 2013. Since then it has been economically empowering millions of women who do not have access to basic financial services such as saving accounts or loans. The bank employs women, accept deposits from and lend mostly to women or businesses which are either managed by or make products for women. The bank also holds financial literacy workshops to raise awareness among women of the financial options they have and how to execute their business ideas.
Bharatiya Mahila Bank offers savings accounts, some of which can be opened with zero balance, as well as women-centric loans at competitive rates. Its savings account comes with an interest rate of 4.5% for balances of up to INR 100,000, and 5% for bigger balances. It also gives unlimited free transactions at the bank’s ATM’s. Many of its products are designed specifically for women including loans to set up beauty salons or buy a car. The bank also provides loans to those who want to drive a rickshaw or open a medical clinic. The emphasis is on providing credit for skills development for women and slight concessions on loan rates.
It offers BMB Shringaar-Loan (to start beauty parlors, saloon and spas), BMB Annapurna Loan (for catering businesses), BMB Parvarish-Loan (to open daycare centers), and BMB Kitchen Modernization Loan – all of which are products oriented towards businesses which are predominantly women run.
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The bank’s executive director, S.M. Swathi, says the loan products are designed to favor women and “encourage women from all sections of society” to chase their own ambitions and make an independent living.
According to the World Bank’s Global Financial Inclusion database, more than 1.3 billion women worldwide remain largely outside the formal financial system. In regions such as South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, women are about 40% less likely than men to have a formal account. In 2014, 43% women in India, 75% women in China and 93% women in South Korea had a bank account. Bharatiya Mahila Bank in April 2015 had about 160,000 customers, 82% of them being women.
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