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‘Union Bank’ launches innovative loan scheme for sweet-makers in West Bengal

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Raman Aggarwal

Mouth-watering ‘Bengali Sweets’ have enticed people of all age-groups for centuries.  Travellers, be it on a leisure trip or on a business visit to Kolkata, make it a point to visit the famous sweet-shops and carry back home a box of sandesh or a container of roshogolla (rasgulla) or misti doi (curd).

Bengali sweets have played an important role in attracting tourists to the state.  

Now, Union Bank of India has come forward with a noble initiative to give these small and mid-sized ‘sweet-makers’ a chance to make it big.  

The Bank has recently unveiled an innovative cluster specific loan scheme for ‘century-old’ sweet manufacturers and traders, strewn across the state of West Bengal to help them renovate and modernise their production units and refurbish their outlets.

The Bank, thanks to the far-sightedness and acumenship of its Chairman & Managing Director (CMD), Debabrata Sarkar, who observed during his several international stints that inspite of its world-wide fame and popularity, the Bengali sweet industry, which is an integral part of the Bengali culture was lacking the on the hygiene and branding part.

Brainchild of the CMD, the loan scheme will help these outlets to modernise their operations, conform to the latest safety and hygiene norms and embrace technology in a bigger way to gain economies of scale.

Union Bank will offer loans ranging from Rs. 2 lakh to upto Rs 1 crore for procurement or replacement of plant & machinery, for renovation or for furnishing of new shops as well as to meet working capital needs.

The rate of interest varies between 10.5-11% for micro and small enterprises based on the quantum of the loan.

To induce the millions of sweet-makers who keep on producing these delicacies day after day in dingy shops with little modern technological support or financial help. For these units, the bank has kept the rate at 10.25% a year for a minimum borrowing of Rs 2 lakh.

Collateral or security is waived as the loans will be covered under the ‘National Credit Guarantee Scheme’.

If borrowers do not want the guarantee-cover to avoid paying an annual guarantee fee (0.50% of the outstanding loan), they have to give 100% collateral. The loans have to be repaid within a maximum period of 84 months or seven-year including moratorium period in line with the projected cash flow.

“Small-scale sweet shop owners will benefit the most if they use the finance in improving their production facilities, safety & hygiene issues and packaging of the products,” said Raman Aggarwal, Field General Manager, Kolkata.

The Bank has already sanctioned 117 loan applications amounting to Rs. 8 crores and another 90 are in the process of getting the approval from the Bank, which again amounts to Rs. 8 crore. Though the quantum of loan is small but it has made a huge difference to hundreds of small and mid-sized sweet-makers in Bengal.

“The Bank has formed a team of officials, who are visiting the field to create awareness about the scheme. Our thrust will be on renovation, hygiene and proper packaging and marketing of the Bengali sweet industry,” said Aggarwal.

“The Bank has even relaxed the norms to overcome the gaps in the maintenance of financial records by these small entrepreneurs.”