Monday, December 26, 2011

Scripting the culture of change

The Chairman scripting the culture of change
It was 20th July 1972 sunny morning. In Visakhapatnam, no English daily would reach the morning readers to relax with a cup of coffee in the early hours of the day. The cool sea breeze on the long verandah was all that was available.

The previous day was tiresome as I spent the whole day till about 10p.m., in the village near Tallavalasa 30kms East of Visakhapatnam taking documents at the village for 90 crop loans I was to disburse, as Agent, Agricultural Development Branch of the SBI. Suddenly, the telephone rang uninterruptedly in the hall, as if it was a wake-up call. I picked up the phone. It was Development Manager (Agriculture) V.S on the line. First question: Did you see the paper today?’ No: was my reply. He said: ‘There is a box item in all the dailies on what you said in the village.’ I replied: Sir, I do not remember to have told anything to the press as I was only taking documents for the Agriculture Cash credit I programmed to disburse.’ The Box item reads: “SBI takes 400 odd signatures even for a hundred rupee loan. B. Yerram Raju, Agent , Agricultural Development Branch, SBI, Visakhapatnam confirms this, while disbursing crop loans for about 90 farmers in Tallavalasa village.” UNI. (I was told that all the dailies carried the item. Later in the month, all the magazines carried the item as a Box item.)
Then I said: I remember that the UNI Correspondent having come to know that the Bank is going to the farmer instead of the farmer coming to the village came to the village and sat through the whole day and must have sent the dispatch. I only confirmed his observation. Then he said: “dear raju: You know the Chairman Shri R.K. Talwar is here in Hyderabad. Yesterday, the Union Minister for Finance, Y.B. Chavan and the Chairman inaugurated the State Bank Staff College and the PR people had put in lot of efforts to put the picture in the front page and down below the photo this box item appeared.” Then I realized what the item caused.
Quickly followed a few more calls: from the Staff Superintendent, District Superintendent, the Regional Manager VNVP Rao – all calling, as if, for my explanation!! My RM said: The Chairman would like you to fly to Hyderabad today and see him by lunch hour.’ There was only one Dakota flight of Indian Airlines from Vizag. I immediately rushed to the Airport after managing the ticket.
I reached at 1p.m and went to the Local Head office to meet my RM and Development Manager. They accompanied me to the Chairman, who was about to go for lunch. “Oh, Yerram is here. Come; let us talk over lunch, he said. My shiver in the pants ceased. Then he asked the Development Manager: did you count the number of signatures on the cash credit document and Demand Promissory Note with the take-delivery letter that the farmer had to sign to get crop loan from us?” He said: “yes sir: it numbered to 427.” Then he asked me: how much time you took to complete the documentation for the 90 farmers? Sir, I and two of my field officers took about 13 hours in the village. We have to complete the disbursement before the cropping season ends in another week to ten days and we have 2000 crop loans to disburse in 30 adopted villages of the bank; even the appraisal form is nine pages , I said. What is the solution?
Sir, “Canara bank takes only a four-page simple document. When the law of the land is same for every bank, why should we take a cumbersome 9-page cash credit agreement? Each blank filled, addition, alteration, etc require the borrower’s signature and under group guarantee, the guarantors’ signatures or LTI. Each illiterate farmer’s thumb impression needs witness of two known persons. All this makes up for the number 427. We have to disburse tens of hundreds of loans in a number of villages ahead of the season.” The doyen of bankers understood the problem. He asked the Development Manager to go over to Bombay Central Office, the next day along with the solicitors from Madras. The team was to work out simple crop-loan documentation within a week’ time. I was to go along with the team to perfect it.
The result: simplified documentation and appraisal procedure for crop loans. This anecdote left an indelible impression on my career as a banker.