The Future Group-owned Big Bazaar has announced that from 24 November, customers will be able to withdraw Rs 2000 from its outlets using debit cards. This facility will be available at 258 Big Bazaar stores in 115 towns and cities across the country.
“We are trying hard to ease any difficulties faced by customers due to the demonetisation of some currency notes,” said Kishore Biyani, Chairman, Future Retail, while making the announcement on Tuesday.
State Bank of India has helped Big Bazaar activate this facility through the bank’s cash at POS machines. Obviously, this couldn’t have happened without the government’s permission.
The Modi government has consistently pursued policies that benefit big retail outfits – the restrictions on online sellers is a case in point.
But by making Big Bazaar into an ATM, SBI and the government are boosting footfalls and directing potential customers towards it. In all likelihood, its sales will also increase. The brand value this exercise adds to Big Bazaar is, of course, immeasurable.
THIS RAISES THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
- Where is the cash coming from? Even if an average of 500 people use each Big Bazaar as an ATM every day, every outlet would need at least Rs 10 lakh cash daily. This comes to Rs 25.80 crore for all the 258 outlets put together.
- Is the cash coming from the savings of SBI depositors? Or will the RBI or government provide it?
- The government and RBI are struggling to ensure that money reaches banks and post offices in rural areas. Banks like SBI are also finding it difficult to replenish their rural branches. At such a time, should money be disbursed to private entities like Big Bazaar?
- On what basis is the government or SBI striking a deal with Big Bazaar and subletting its functions to a private retail entity?
- Does Big Bazaar require a banking license to perform such functions?
- Why was Big Bazaar chosen and not other retail entities?
SBI particularly has a lot to answer in this regard. It’s chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya was among the strongest advocates of using indelible ink to mark people who had already exchanged their old notes for new ones.
It is strange that chairperson of a bank which calls itself “Banker to every Indian” doesn’t trust common people with small sums of money, but is willing to give away crores of rupees in cash to a private retailer.