State Bank of India will simultaneously open 154 branches—the most ever on a single day—and 1,540 ATMs across the country on Sunday. The new branches include one in finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Jangipur parliamentary constituency in West Bengal.
“The branches will be inaugurated online by the finance minister,” said an officer of India’s largest bank connected with this mammoth exercise. The synchronised launch will eclipse the record 101 branches SBI opened in one day last July, which were inaugurated by then finance minister P Chidambaram.
Mukherjee will open the new branches spread across India by going online from Omarpur, a town in his constituency. SBI’s IT officials are working overtime to connect all the branches through satellite network by setting up a temporary hub in Omarpur.
“We have arranged a video conference for the minister with customers in a select few branches,” said the official. Once the FM hits a button, the locations of the new branches and ATMs indicated on an India map at the venue will start blinking. “The ATMs will also become operational from then onwards,” the official said.
In the first major drive to expand its reach since the economic slowdown, SBI’s number of branches will rise to 11,811 from 11,657. The bank has 9,502 ATMs. According to another SBI officer, the bank will open 11 branches in each of the 14 national circles in which it operates. The bank will also open 110 ATMs each in those circles.
SBI chairman OP Bhatt has said he plans to add 1,000 branches and 10,000 ATMs this fiscal and cater to 50,000 villages. SBI plans to extend banking services to 1 lakh unbanked villages by 2010. Of its total branch network, 4,447 are in rural areas.
As of March this year, SBI had a deposit base of Rs 7.42 lakh crore and an operating income of Rs 74,880 crore.