NEW DELHI: Baba Ramdev reached out to five banks in the second week of November, asking them to link up all Patanjali stores by Christmas to make things easier for customers by enabling them to pay for goods through cards, e-wallets and other digital means.
The meeting took place soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the old series of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender on November 8 in a strike against black money and to make India a cashless economy.
Patanjali, which is said to have more than 5,300 stores across India, will allow all purchases above Rs 50 to be made digitally.
Demonetisation has led to a shortage of notes, forcing people to wait in queues at banks and cash dispensers in the hope of withdrawing money.
“The endeavour is to ensure that no poor person is denied any product for want of cash,” said Acharya Balkrishna, Patanjali’s CEO and a close aide of Ramdev.
“Only purchases below Rs 50 will have to be made via cash. Post demonetisation, instructions were issued to all store(s) that if a poor person does not have cash he/she should be given products on credit.”
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The five banks that met with Patanjali are State Bank of India, Axis Bank, Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, said people with knowledge of the matter.
“From digital banking to payments through e-wallets, we want every digital facility available at our stores,” Balkrishna said. State Bank of India told ET: “Your query is speculative. That said, demonetisation has certainly opened up more avenues of growth for digital currency and SBI continues to explore these.”
The other banks didn’t respond to questions. Executives of two of them confirmed that Patanjali had sought digital connectivity but didn’t want to be named.
“Post-demonetisation demands to go digital have increased exponentially,” said one of the bank executives. “Though it is difficult to give preference to any company (or) institution, efforts are afoot to meet the increasing demands.”
A senior Patanjali executive said a majority of Patanjali stores already have point of sale (PoS) machines so that purchases can be made using swipe cards.
But “it was noticed that certain private store owners were denying digital purchases to their customers. We do not want this to happen at Patanjali stores,” he said.
The person said Ramdev was a strong proponent of a cashless economy and had even called on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to scrap high-denomination currency, impose a tax on transactions and make the banking system transparent.
Ramdev has supported the demonetisation move announced by Prime Minister Modi although he’s said that the implementation could have been better