Aug 26, 2008
M N Rajendra Kumar : The Co-operative Czar on a Roll
by Florine Roche - Mangalore
He entered the co-operative field as an employee of South Kanara District Central Co-operative Bank Limited (SKDCC) on a monthly salary of Rs. 60/- a few decades back. In the past four decades he has scaled new heights setting new benchmarks in the co-operative field. From a humble beginning he has risen to the highest position in the field, occupying the coveted post of President of State Co-op. Apex Bank, having a deposit of over Rs. 3100 crores.
He is none other than M N Rajendra Kumar (MNR), the czar of cooperative movement in this coastal region. As President of Apex Bank in the last 3 years and as President of SKDCC Bank for the past 15 years, he has heralded a silent revolution in the co-operative and self-help group movement in the two districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. (Apex bank is the main bank that controls the District Central Co-operative Banks and Primary Agricultural co-operative Societies of the state).
The 59-year old bearded M N R, a Jain, has a large fan following among the rural folks. He is an agriculturist, industrialist, co-operative and social worker – all rolled into one and is truly a multifaceted personality. He is adept at multitasking simultaneously much to the bewilderment of his fans and foes. His very name is synonymous with success and from a meagre 5 crores of profit three years bank he has been able to leapfrog to a profit of 40 crores for the year 2008 in SCDCC Bank. He has been able to achieve this despite categorically stating “ours is not a profit oriented organization”.
A very outspoken personality Rajendra Kumar has been very vocal saying “Government policies are responsible for spoiling cooperative banks in our country. It needs co-operative banks for all its activities but when it comes to funds they always opt for commercial banks because of low cost current account. It is not giving money co-operative banks but is getting things done at our cost”, he explains citing causes for the sordid position cooperative banks find themselves in.
TRYST WITH CO-OPERATIVE SECTOR
A young Rajendra Kumar might not have envisaged what was in store for him when he joined SKDCC Bank as an employee soon after completing SSLC. Though he belongs to a family of landlords, the Land Reforms Act resulted in the family losing all property. He was compelled to take up a job soon after completing his high school and that very factor changed his destiny for ever. “Working as an ordinary employee gave me enough insight to study the loopholes in the system and I could also foresee corrective measures to overcome the lacunae”, he says candidly. In between, the business instinct in him drew him towards business but the appeal of cooperative sector dragged him like a magnet back to the field and since then there has been no looking back.
Though he is actively associated with various cooperative institutions his stint as President of SCDCC bank for the last 15 years has won him accolades and recognition and finally catapulted him to the Presidentship of apex bank in 2005.
He was steadfast in his commitment to scale newer heights in the co-operative sector and on having elected President of SCDCC Bank in 1994 he strived hard to accomplish his agenda to make co-operative movement a mass movement involving people from all hues of life. He knew there was no magic formula to success but it was his determination which provided a new outlook to the entire credit pattern of the District co-op Bank.
MANY FIRSTS TO SCDCC UNDER MNR
While statistics speaks volumes of his achievement as President of SCDCC Bank and as President of apex Bank, they do not depict the scenario in its entirety and the remarkable progress achieved under his leadership. There has been a considerable thrust in SCDCC branch expansion ever since he took over in 1994 which has risen to 53 from 25. Modernization and computerization is the other factor he paid attention to as a result of which the co-op banking services were put on par with that of other public sector or private banks. The bank holds the national record for full loan recovery consecutively for the past 15 years. By introducing ATM facility in 1998 the Kodialbail branch of SCDCC Bank achieved the distinction of being the first co-operative bank in the whole country to offer this service. In the 95 years of its existence the bank has been able to achieve a record profit of 6.45 crores for the year 2008.
“The co-operative banks have a cutting edge over other public sector banks when it comes to granting loans. Our bank can sanction loan to a person on the same day he applies which is not possible in private banks as decision making takes its own sweet time. Speedy disposal of files is our forte”, he emphasizes.
In fact SCDCC bank has been a role model of the organization always setting new records and benchmarks. When banks don’t sanction loans without security, Rajendra Kumar gave a new twist to this concept through SCDCC by sanctioning loans without security. SCDCC bank also has set a national record in agricultural loan recovery in the last 13 years for 100% loan recovery. Pointing out the reasons for this outstanding performance he says “This district has been the birth place of 4 nationalized banks and “banking culture” can be seen and felt in every part of the district. People still go by the feeling of loan repayment”. In same breath he rues the fact this banking culture will be destroyed slowly and will soon become archaic with the government coming out with various loan waiver schemes time and again.
Credit goes to him for introducing the concept of mobile banking in co-operative banks in 2007, which is a first to the banking sector including commercial banks.
REVOLUTIONISING SHG CONCEPT
Just like Mahatma Gandhi who said that a customer is the most important visitor to any premises, Mr Rajendra Kumar firmly ‘believes and treats his customers as guests’. He is the architect and brain behind the Navodaya Self Help Group (SHG) project established in the year 2000, with the intent of empowering the rural masses, thus paving the way for their socio economic and holistic development. Subsequently Navodaya Grama Vikas Charitable Trust was set up 2004 with MNR at the helm as the managing trustee.
“Usually banks seek security to sanction laons. So I wanted to reach out to those who could not afford any security but still wanted to seek loans which resulted in Navodaya SHG’s. Through this I tried establishing a direct link between the bank and the groups”, he elaborates.
Today Navodaya has over 3 lakhs members spread over 6 districts – D Kannada, Udupi, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada and Shimoga. Out of this 75% are women who are actively involved in various developmental activities.
What makes him devote so much time and energy towards co-operative movement despite his multifarious activities? “I am able to get in touch with people of different backgrounds. Even if I go after earning money it will not serve any purpose because having even two proper meals these days is not possible for health reasons. If my services are helpful to the people, it is the greatest reward I can get which money cannot buy”, he explains.
NO POLITICAL AMBITIONS AS OF NOW
He recants all rumors of joining politics at least for the time being though he says many political parties have approached him. “I am happy with my family of 3 lakhs SHG members. “SHG is like my family and I am blessed to have a family of 3 lakhs which no one else has been so fortunate to have. I don’t have anything more to achieve by joining politics”, he declares.
He recalls the incident of his feeling desperate and depressed after suffering heavy business losses. But he gathered his wits to make a turnaround and build a successful business empire due to his sheer determination and hard work.
What is remarkable is that though a known Congressman he has kept his party proclivity aside and reach out to all sections of the society.
He has broadened his horizons by traveling to different countries and studying the co-operative banking progress achieved in those countries.
He is now all geared up to face the stiff competition from private and public sector banks by personalizing the banking services on offer. The immediate plan is to shift the present premises to a new spacious building coming up adjacent to the present premises and to make a turnaround of those banks which are still under the red.
The SCDCC bank all set to celebrate centenary in 2013 and with Mr Rajendra Kumar at the helm it is sure to create many more milestones by then. As Chairman of Apex Bank, he has shouldered the onerous responsibility of keeping the co-operative flag flying high against many odds.
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