31 October 2014

Talk of Many Things

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions

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Linking Aadhaar Number To Bank Account

14 May 2013  |  12622 views  |  0

Running From Pillar To Post To Link Aadhaar Card To Bank Account

On my last few visits to the Internet Banking portal of this bank - a Top 3 private sector bank in India - I'd been seeing the banner shown below - no, bottom of this page - requesting customers to link their Aadhaar Number to their bank account at the earliest.

(For the uninitiated, Aadhaar Number is a 12 digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India on behalf of the Government of India. This number will serve as a proof of identity and address for Indian citizens. Even as it has just crossed the 20% mark on its way to eventually enroll all 1.2B Indians into Aadhaar, UIDAI has already become the world's largest biometrics program.)

Until recently, I hadn't paid too much attention to this banner because I never thought that I was eligible for any government benefits or subsidies.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago when my cooking gas distributor asked me to re-enroll for its service. Among other things, this involved submitting details of my Aadhaar-linked bank account. I'll spare readers the gory details of how LPG cylinders, bank account and Aadhaar Card are related to one another. Google for "Government Monopoly in LPG Cylinders in India", "LPG Subsidy" and "Direct Cash Transfer" to connect the dots if you're interested. Suffice to say that, had I  ignored my LPG distributor's instructions for much longer, my home fires would've stopped burning, the kettles would never have started boiling and the master of the house would've been sent far away.

Therefore, I decided to finally heed my bank's missive and visited my nearest branch with my Aadhaar Card, expecting to be ferried past a smooth, well-oiled process and get out of the place in a few minutes.

I was in for a rude shock.

As soon as I entered the branch, my Relationship Manager bumped into me and took me straight to one employee (say, Mr. A) who was supposed to own the Aadhaar linking procedure. After listening to me, Mr. A told me that this whole thing was only applicable for public sector banks and that, since his bank was a private sector bank, there was nothing to be done. I was flabergasted and, when I recovered from what I'd heard, I politely pointed out that I'd learned about "this whole thing" from his own bank's website. I also showed him a printout of the website banner pinned on the notice board located five feet away from him.

Not one to admit his ignorance gracefully, Mr. A shrugged his shoulders and immediately told my RM to contact "Madam", who, as Branch Operations Manager, was responsible for "all such things". When I explained the purpose of my visit to Ms. B, as I'll call this lady, she creased her forehead and pondered for a few moments. Then, suddenly, she seemed to have a eureka moment and recalled receiving an email on this subject a few months earlier. She asked my RM to pull out this email and do the needful immediately.

Fifteen minutes later, the RM couldn't locate the said email. It was already 30 minutes since I'd entered the branch. Luckily, Ms. B had managed to find the said email in the meanwhile and had fired a printout of a form that had to be completed by the RM and me. She handed over the form to my RM and asked him to complete the procedure. Friendly as he was, it was obvious that the poor chap had never seen this form before.  To save him further embarrassment and myself, further delay, I took the form from him, completed it, and showed him where he had to sign. I also asked  him to place the bank's seal to confirm that I'd signed the form in his presence and handed over a copy of the Aadhaar Letter to him. After doing all this, my RM nonchalantly put the form in his drawer and was about to get up and go. When I managed to edge in my question about how long it would take for the procedure to be completed, he gave me the stock answer, "7 working days". All told, I was in the branch for over an hour.

It was evident that none of the bankers who I'd interacted with during this visit had been trained on this subject or had ever carried out this procedure before.

But, I'm not too bothered.

I'm simply going to quote this bank account in my gas company's enrolment form. I'm sure that everything will eventually work out fine. Over several years of dealing with this bank - and many of its private sector brethren - I've learned to be patient and have developed my own version of Bill Gates' famous saying: "We always overestimate what banks can do in seven working days but underestimate what they can accomplish in one year". Even if the bank gets it right only after a few more reminders and escalations from me over the next couple of months, it's okay since the subsidy payments won't be remitted to the aforementioned Aadhaar-linked bank account for another 10-12 months.

I know that Bill Gates' quote refers to change but, sadly, in the context of many banks, my paraphrased version applies even for simple and standard operating procedures. Call me cynical but, with bank branches struggling with such mundane transactions, I've a good laugh whenever I hear digital pundits wax eloquently about how the bank branch of the future will transcend everyday tasks and help customers with advice related to complex products and services.

Round and round the rugged rock... TagsPaymentsInnovation

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Ketharaman Swaminathan

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