Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bhopal businessman buys ATM on Dhanteras

    Bhopal, November 3: Rajesh Jethpuria doesn't own a bank, but that didn't stop him from buying an automated teller machine (ATM) to celebrate Dhanteras! Inspired by a banker friend, the 38-year-old businessman made the Rs 7 lakh purchase on Wednesday, becoming India's first individual owner of an ATM.

    "We worship Goddess Laxmi on Dhanteras. So I booked an ATM last Friday," said Jethpuria, who runs a construction and interior decoration enterprise in upscale Maharana Pratap Nagar. "I told my wife it was legal and the beginning of a new business for me. We finalized the deal on Dhanteras. The manufacturer, Ezee Rupee ATM, gave me the papers today. I plan to buy five more."

    India needs one million ATMs but has only 65,000 machines. The State Bank of India has 20,000 ATMs while the remaining 35 banks have 45,000. In 2005, the RBI, as part of its liberalization policy, cleared outsourcing of ATMs because their maintenance was between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh per month.

    "A lot of money goes into ATMs. Banks don't want to take up this burden. If entrepreneurs take the responsibility of running ATMs, it will ease the financial burden on banks," said a Bhopal-based Bank of India officer, who requested anonymity.

    Manish Mathur, director of Ezee Rupee, a Canada-based ATM manufacturing company, said his firm was in touch with four major banks, both private and government-owned, to set up such ATMs in Indore, Surat and Ahmedabad. By February 2011, Mathur said, hundreds of such ATMs will be operational. "Jethpuria bought the first machine. But there are at least 10 other people buying ATMs from us in the next two days," Mathur said. "We are corresponding with banks, which will choose buyers according to their locations."

    According to RBI rules, the money in the ATM will belong to the bank. The vendor or owner of the ATM will maintain the set-up and get a commission on each transaction. "The national average on each ATM is 260 transactions per day, depending on the location and bank. I've bought the machine investing Rs 7 lakh. Now my only dream is to have SBI pick my ATM. I hope Goddess Laxmi grants this wish as well."

    "In India, the ATM network is small and exorbitant. So far, it was either the banks maintaining ATMs or third party service providers like Euronet Worldwide. Ours is a new business model where an individual owns the ATM and makes money with every transaction," said Cris Chandler, MD of Ezee Rupee.

    The idea came to Jethpuria when a banker friend told him that along with his business, he could install an ATM. He said the concept was in practice in America and Europe where it's called White Label ATMs. "I can install it in my shop or any location with a 16 sq ft space. A bank can sign a five-year contract with me and sponsor the machine,'' Jethpuria explained.

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