China had 21,0000 ATMs by the end of 2009, USA had approximately 42,0000 ATMs by the end of 2009. India on the other hand had 75,000 ATMs by the end of June, 2011. It seems fair to compare the number of ATMs in India with the likes of China and USA despite the fact that these two countries probably had a much better banking system in place.
But, if the growth of India is often benchmarked against these very countries it is evident that the state of ATMs in India does not cut a very happy picture.
The answer to fast nationwide expansion of ATMs is ‘White Labeled ATMs’ as demonstrated by other countries like Canada which has seen tremendous boost after allowing for White Labeled ATMs to be opened.In basic terms, a white-labeled ATM is not a property of the bank and rather owned and maintained by a private third-party. This is different than the current model wherein the banks have to bear the cost of buying the ATM machines and also handle the cash management.
(here is Wikipedia link of white labelled atm’s)
It is noteworthy that RBI has been dilly-dallying the decision to allow White Labeled ATMs in India since 2006 but for some reason, it is yet to become a reality. However, things might be looking up in this regard if IDBI Bank is considered.
Even though technology seems to be a constraint since White Labeled ATMs will require a standardization of banking processes by various banks the potential white labeled ATMs could have is immense. It can create a new financial services segment itself totally controlled and managed by non-banking entities.
How it shall Operate
With the current model, banks have to bear upfront costs as well as recurring expenses to maintain ATMs and this might restrict them to expand the number of ATMs especially in remote locations where these banks may not even get enough transactions.
However, since a White Labeled ATM is not tied to a single bank, a third party operator might be in a better position to bear a return on the investment since the business model will involve charging a fee on every transaction irrespective of which bank the ATM card belongs to.
The additional charges levied by white labeled ATMs could be detrimental to the fast adoption of these kind of ATMs but It can be said that customers of today might be ready to shell out a small fee for the convenience of finding an ATM close by and withdrawing/depositing cash irrespective of the bank they have an account with.
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