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HDFC Bank opens credit card window for cash-starved rural entrepreneurs

Sandeep Soni

Private sector lender HDFC Bank has been enhancing its engagement with entrepreneurs in startups and small businesses over the past few months. After partnering with the Bombay Stock Exchange in helping startups list on its BSE Startups platform in April this year followed by backing 25 social sector startups through grants as part of its corporate social responsibility programme, HDFC Bank today launched a co-branded credit card in partnership with the government’s Common Service Centre.

Small Business MoneyBack credit card would offer ‘easy credit access’ to CSC’s rural or village level entrepreneurs to manage their day-to-day business expenses, HDFC bank said in a statement. HDFC Bank and CSC had signed a memorandum of understanding on July 2018 based on which such entrepreneurs enrolled with CSCs were offered banking products and services in remote locations who otherwise don’t have access to formal banking.

"India has a network of over 2 lakh CSCs that have at least one-two village-level entrepreneurs. We are also targeting India's vast base of small traders who can be our potential customers," CSCs are managed by such village-level entrepreneurs," an HDFC Bank official told Financial Express Online without disclosing the credit limit.

The bank would offer "Rs 10-15k limit to these entrepreneurs and small traders as in smaller markets, it doesn't make sense to have a large credit limit keeping in mind their propensity to spend that is different from those in urban areas. The bank would do the underwriting process," a source aware of the development told Financial Express Online.

Currently, there are more than 3 lakh CSCs in India that are ICT enabled centres for delivery of government-to-citizen and business-to-citizen services. HDFC Bank has 60 dedicated branches for startups across 30 cities in India. Also, it has a dedicated support structure for startups called SmartUp offering services such as unique current account services, forex, bulk payment and collection, corporate salary accounts, depository services etc. The credit card is part of the bank’s focus on “making rural India become prosperous,” and offering “the same range of customized products and services in rural India as in urban India,” said Smita Bhagat, Head -- Government & Institutional Business and E-commerce, HDFC Bank.

“HDFC Bank already has a startup portal called SmartUp to offer financial and technology support to startups along with to provide mentoring to startups, encourage them through various incubators even as we do an innovation summit annually,” Smita Bhagat, Country Head – Government, e-commerce and Start-ups, HDFC Bank had told Financial Express Online earlier. In June this year, HDFC Life -- the life insurance arm of the HDFC group had partnered with venture fund IvyCap Ventures’ startup support arm IvyCamp to identify and work with startups working on emerging technology in the insurance value chain through the programme — Futurance.