Editor-in-chief, Daijiworld Weekly
Pics: Rons Bantwal
Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai
Mumbai/Mangaluru, Jan 17: Coming from a small village called Adve, near Mulky in Karnataka, Jaya Chandu Suvarna (born 1946) began his entrepreneurial journey at the tender young age of fourteen. He headed for the city of Mumbai, with nothing but a dream for a better life. In the journey that followed over the next five decades, he went from cleaner to waiter to manager to owner to benefactor of thousands. Born with an innate spark, a magnetic personality, a quick and right-thinking mind and great perseverance Suvarna started a ramshackle restaurant, housed in a tin-sheet shelter. Inside he planted a pipal sapling. His four sons, now young men, proudly point to the pipal, as it stands tall and stately, offering shelter to passerby. Sacred to Hindus and Buddhists in India, it is worshipped as bringer of blessings, a sheltered space to contemplate the spiritual.
This tree stands outside the now swanky Jay Prakash Hotel. In the past few decades Suvarna, went from one restaurant to several businesses, with his sons who have, even with all the choices in the world available to them, followed in their father’s inspiring footsteps.
In a life filled with service to the community and dedication to doing the right thing, Suvarna
has created the Billawara Association and taken its message of empowerment to thousands. He has created institutions that bring free education and better infrastructure to thousands and has taken the Bharat Cooperative Bank in 1991 from 3 to 100-plus branches in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. Awarded for both his entrepreneurial and charity work, he continues to lead by example, to create, build and to make a difference at a prolific pace even today. He is the pioneer in education by opening Narayana Guru Schools both in Mangaluru and Mumbai. The story of Jayaleela Corporation Pvt Ltd is the story of this man’s will and vision was headed for a horizon closer home.
Suvarna is married to Leelavathi and the couple is blessed with four sons.
He is the recipient of many awards that include Karnataka Rajyotsav Award, Pingara Award, Samaj Ratna, Udyoga Ratna, Billavashree and Bharat Karmayogi, just to mention a few.
Face to Face with Jaya Suvarna
During my recent visit to Mumbai, I had the opportunity to meet this thespian at his residence above his Jay Prakash Restaurant adjacent to Goregaon railway station. We spoke on a varied number of topics like social life, banking, demonetization and his association with many associations including Billawar association of which is he is the president emeritus.
Sir, could you please brief us about the success of Bharat Bank, the first grade Co-Operative Bank started by Mangalureans which has its reach to the medium and poor shareholders?
JS: Bharat Bank was started in the year 1978 by likeminded members of the Billawar Association (Mumbai) who had migrated from the coastal regions of Karnataka, that is, erstwhile Dakshina Kannada district, to Mumbai in search of their livelihood. Their intention was to make available banking facilities to all strata of society, irrespective of any caste, religion and class. Their success can be attributed to certain factors such as customer friendly services, trust, dedicated and honest directors, hardworking and committed staff and strict adherence to regulatory guidelines. The bank was started with a share capital of Rs 6 lac with one branch. Today the turnover has crossed Rs 17,000 crore, with 100-plus branches spread over the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat.
Is it limited to the financial needs of Billawa community alone or do you do business with others?
JS: We believe in the philosophy of Brahmashree Narayana Guru, that is, one caste, one religion, one god for the whole mankind. The Bank renders services to all customers ithout any kind of discrimination within the regulatory guidelines.
What is the mantra behind 100-plus branches within a short span of 30 years?
JS: It is the outcome of team work combined with the vision of the board of directors, constructive plan and its execution by the executives/staff at all levels. In order to sustain in the competitive banking industry, continuous expansion is imperative.
What is your strategy that clicked in reaching out to the poor, especially who seek finance from you?
JS: Our sole goal had been to extend all kinds of banking facilities to needy people for various productive purposes and to improve their standard of living.
How far has demonetisation hit your bank, although co-operative banks are largely kept out of the purview of this drive. Do you think this scheme will drive away the black money and benefit the poor in the country?
JS: Demonetisation has greatly impacted our regular banking business, in terms of exchange of currency and withdrawal process. However, things are improving now. We hope and believe that it helps stop black money and benefit the poor.
What are the challenges faced by the cooperative banking sector today? Is NPA a big problem?
JS: Competition from large private sector banks, slow credit off take due to a slowdown in the economy are the challenges faced by the cooperative banking sector. At the same time due to slackness in the economy, some borrowers are finding it difficult to maintain regular repayment schedule. However, we feel things will improve soon.
You are the face of the Bharat Bank and many people call it 'Jayanna’s Bank'. How did you get into the banking business?
JS: At Bharat Bank we work as a team. I was actively associated with the bank since the year 1978 and had been doing sincere efforts for the healthy growth of the bank, of course with the support of all the directors, customers, and staff. Our success belongs to all.
What are the future plans and projects of Bharat Bank in terms of its expansion? Are the stakeholders taken into confidence while planning its growth?
JS: The Bank has plans to open another six branches shortly. While planning for expansion due deliberations are made at the appropriate levels keeping in view the viability.