The nation’s largest lender State Bank of India is creating a 15,000-sqft innovation centre in Navi Mumbai investing around Rs 100 crore, a senior official said here today. The centre, to be built at its Global IT Centre in Belapur in Navi Mumbai, will be the largest innovation centre by any financial services company in the country, the official claimed. “We feel it is very essential to make the bank ready for the future for which we are building the innovation centre,” SBI’s innovation head Sidon Baraokar told PTI here. He said it will be a 15,000-sqft centre that will have 40 dedicated zones for each technology like blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, among others. The innovation centre is part of a Rs 200-crore allocation that the bank has earmarked for innovation last year, Baraokar said.
Apart from the proposed innovation centre, Rs 50 crore is allocated for procurements from innovative startups and taking equity stakes in new companies, while the remaining Rs 50 crore is for other needs like software procurements etc, Baraokar said. At present, the bank has a dozen-member strong innovation team which will go up to over 30 once the centre is launched, he said. Baraokar said on a continuous basis,SBI has decided to allocate about 5 per cent of its IT budget for innovation.
The bank is yet to make any equity investment from this earmarked fund but has tied up with an IIT-Bombay incubated startup Allincall for procurement, he said. The bank successfully carried out a hackathon last year and is gearing up for launching its second edition this year, Baraokar said. He said apart from its internal activities, the bank is also spearheading an industry-wide innovation effort to learn fast about innovations called as “bank chain”. “The bank chain is a forum of banks to collaboratively work on financial technologies and block chain solutions,” he said.
Private sector lender DCB Bank’s head of innovation Prasanna Lohar said the bank chain initiative has 27 lenders and financial institutions, including 22 companies from the country and five from the Middle East, which are trying to find out solutions that can be applied across the spectrum. Baraokar said bank chain was started this February and members meet on a monthly basis or have a conference call. The bank chain has partnered with a Pune-based startup called Primechain for the initiative.