High-end ATMs just round the corner

By : |July 13, 2006 0

MUMBAI: It was the exciting nineties: Everything was changing, right from the television to the grocery store as the nation charted a course towards a liberal and free market economy. 

Sometime then, the Indian Bank had Sunil Udupa working as technical director at HMA Data Systems, the task of installing an automated teller machine or ATM in the country. The machine was imported and it landed at the Chennai port. 

The custom officials were quite intrigued by machine and on being told by Udupa that it dispensed ‘money on insertion of a card’ readily detained him, taking him to be a forger and the ATM to be a fake currency printer. 

It was only when the bank officials intervened and after much deliberation did the customs relented. A lot has changed from those days, when none knew ATMs to today when you cannot live without one.

Udupa is now the president and CEO at AGS Infotech, a Wincor Nixdorf alliance company. Wincor Nixdorf based in Germany makes ATMs that are renowned across the world. Udupa, estimates 17,000 ATMs to be installed in India. 

Two leading players, NCR and DIEBOLD, have captured the market and Wincor Nixdorf is trying to make a dent into the market. 

“We have a total order base of around 1400 machines as of March 2006, it might not be big when compared to other players. But our order base is growing rapidly, and we could a force to reckon with in the next few years,” claims Udupa.

He is also known for setting up the country’s first shared payment network system, Swadhan. Why did the whole concept collapse? And he turns a wee bit philosophic: “We could not market the concept of Swadhan, as it should have been. Also, the synergies of close to fifty banks in the alliance did not really match,” he says. 

To him, a few progressive banks are driving the ATM revolution in India in public and private sector, “UTI, ICICI, HDFC in the private sector and SBI, PNB and BOB in the public sector fall into this category,” he says. 

Things would be much more exciting when Independent Service Organization (ISO) open shop in India, “companies like FSS, Euronet, E-Funds, etc. are waiting in the wings for RBI approval, once that is done, ATM installations would double. Internationally, ISO account for nearly 50 per cent of all installations,” says Udupa.

Yet, Udupa asserts that things are really not that rosy. The leading ATM companies are currently offloading 4th generation ATMs in India, whereas 5th generation ones are readily available in South Eastern countries and even Nepal. 

“The banks are being beguiled into buying these outdated machines for the sake of profit”, he adds. The chief difference between the 4th generation and 5th generation machines are namely LC, built in speakers and use of robotics, etc. 

According to sources, NCR and Diebold have established assembling units in India and hence are not keen to introduce the latest machines.

But a senior management official at one of the leading ATM company begs to differ. “The machines installed by the companies depend on three factors, requirement, pricing and most importantly awareness. Indian populace is still not fully aware about the kinds of services that can be dispensed through an ATM and hence not ready for it,” he says.

Somehow, Udupa is not convinced. “Banks are currently investing heavily in outdated machines and there are no reasons why they should,” he says. 

He displays few machines that are lying around the office, one has a complete keypad with an inbuilt mouse ready for complete Internet banking transactions, while the other has a full-fledged printer on board and can provide printed copies of bank statements on demand. 

A few banks have already evinced interest in these machines and have already initiated pilot projects. Udupa believes that in the not too distant future, these machines will be as ubiquitous as the current lot of ATMs.

“Once the consumer awareness spreads, they will demand these high end machines,” he says.

Indeed, a lot has changed over the past decade, from handling a few transactions per day, today ATMs on average handle 350-400 transactions on a given day and are used by all class and mass of people. A long way from the times when they were subscribed by the hoi polloi alone. A sign of how times have changed, its time ATMs changed too.

© CyberMedia News

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