As the old idiom goes, where there is a will, there is a way. Meet Vishwas Thakur, the Chairman of Vishwas Co-operative Bank and a multi-talented persona. From being a milk-seller and a shop owner, he today stands tall as a chairman of a well-organized scheduled bank whose turnover is Rs 500 crores. Vishwas Bank is one of the most famed banks in Nashik and is involved in a lot of social causes. Vishwas Thakur takes us through the journey of the bank. Excerpts…
Vishwas Thakur had taken a loan for his shop of Rs 60 thousand from a co-operative bank for a tenure of five years which he repaid in three years only.Yet, when he requested for a loan of Rs one lakh, they dillydallied and later rejected without any reason. This grieved him and out of the agitation, he decided to start his own bank. Till then, he had no knowledge of the banking sector. Fortunately, that was the time when the RBI policy for issuing licenses to the banks was liberal. When he applied for the license, he was only 25 years old. In the next two years, he secured the license and Vishwas Co-operative Bank Ltd was born.
Today, there are about 75 thousand bank accounts holders at Vishwas Bank. “These account holders have showed their trust in Vishwas Bank. When we started off, we knew we are doing a good job. The teachings at home and society forbid us from doing anything unethical. The power of doing something good is always inspiring. This encourages us to stay away from any scams,” shares Thakur.
During the initial days, asking depositors to keep their money with Vishwas Bank was a task. Thakur gives the credit to the board of directors of the bank. “The board of directors has been same more or less since the time of the inception of the bank. All these people have a good repute. They took tremendous efforts to get people open an account in our bank in the initial stage. In the later part, our staff took the same zeal and worked towards adding account holders,” beams Thakur. Thakur also thinks many of his account holders are influential people and their too contribute in bank’s success. “When someone of a reputed name has his account in our bank, and uses our cheque book, people who consider him as their role model also aspire to have their account with us,” Thakur explains.
Last year, demonetisation became a nightmare for every bank. Ask how Vishwas Bank tackled the issue, and Thakur says, “It was one of the most shocking announcements by our PM. We called a meeting of our staff and managers by midnight and decided a plan to smoothen things for the customers. Everyone from manager to the peon were instructed of their duties. Even the peons were given the rights to exchange notes. This trick worked as the rush was always manageable. We collected about Rs 100 crores in that span.” Even in the current market conditions, the recovery rate of Vishwas Bank is 98 percent!
Three branches out of eleven branches of Vishwas Bank work seven days a week for 14 hours. This step was taken so that the customers can enjoy banking at their convenience. After achieving the target of Rs 1000 crores, Vishwas Bank plans to move out of Nashik. He wishes to add more branches in Nashik first. “We have our branches for pin code 422001 to 422011. There are five more branches – one in each remaining pin codes that we wish to start first,” he shares his plans of expansion.
Aforementioned, Vishwas Thakur is a multi-faceted personality who also started the first community radio in Nashik. Thanks to his educational background in media, he always points out that had it not been for Vishwas Bank, he would have been someone in the media sector. “With Vishwas Radio, my love for media was kept alive. It is my hobby. We understood that entertainment is the best medium to educate. Today, about two lakh people listen to our radio and it is the only 24 hour community radio service in Nashik. According to an independent survey, eight out of ten cars had Vishwas Radio playing,” shares Thakur.
Vishwas Radio helped in filling up the viod that the commercial channels created. They interviewed those organisations that were genuinely doing some good work and educated the masses about it. This also enabled people willing to help understand the genuine organisations that were in need of funds. No blabbering RJs and songs before 1990s have been the USPs of Vishwas Radio.
Vishwas Lawns is one of the biggest wedding lawns in Nashik. Though started with a commercial aspect, Vishwas Thakur has some other plans for it too. “If we see the days of mahurats and other auspicious days or the days when a function can be held, they sum up to not more than 160-165 days. So, for 200 days, the lawns are empty. I declared that these 200 days are for Nashikites. Last year we conducted 50 programmes for free. The only condition is, that the programme should be open for all and with no cost,” elucidates Thakur.
Recently, Kalidas Kalamandir was shut for renovation and there was no other venue that was as big as Kalidas Kalamandir. Vishwas Thakur offered the plays to be conducted at Vishwas Lawns at lower rates. “If one auditorium closes down, and there is no place for theatre to perform, it is a shameful thing for the third-largest city of Maharashtra. So we offered our place on the condition that the ticket would be charged less. In order to suit the needs of the theatre, we have added up more infrastructure like wings, sound system, additional chairs, etc,” he states.