This man wants to make a better and a financially secure future for all of us

I want introduce the concept of saving to everyone: Krishnakumar Soni 6 things you must do with your EPF to secure your future - Consider these investment opportunities for the corpus that will be realised from your Employee Provident Fund (EPF)

This man wants to make a better and a financially secure future for all of us

When we think of a hero we usually imagine a caped crusader going all out to save the planet from itself. In real life, however, heroes are far more subtle, both in looks as well as impact. They tend to be quiet individuals who observe the world at length before coming up with solutions that benefit everyone in due time. 

Krishnakumar Soni is a study in the category of the humble and hardworking hero. The CEO of the Chhindwara District Cooperative Bank, he has come up with a novel scheme named Arunodaya Gullak Yojana by which children (yes, children!) can raise money for their future while inculcating the benefits of saving. About 6,000 children have deposited more than Rs 1 crore in his scheme so far, and their number keeps growing. 

We spoke to Soni to get an insight into the mind of a man bent on making a better and more (financially) secure future for all of us.

Excerpts: 

What financial lessons did you learn in childhood?

As a child, I used to go to a ‘paathshaala’ to study, like most of my contemporaries. There we were taught lessons in self-sufficiency via the use of the charkha, which we used to make homespun cloth. The value of savings was also inculcated in us during our time at school. My own father used to teach at that school, so that helped me imbibe the lessons better. My grandfather was a dealer in silver and gold, and through observing him and his business practices, we children learned a lot about finance and savings.

So where did you get the idea for the ‘Piggy Bank’ savings account?

This scheme came about as a result of the bank’s director, chairman, and me brainstorming how to ensure a savings scheme that actually benefits common folk. Everyone saves money, but the average person can rarely avail of the full benefits of savings since they start late. And so the Piggy Bank savings account was conceived. Students and children can start saving from their childhood. This will be invaluable to an individual when it’s time to get married or otherwise settle down in life – and needs a financial boost in order to do so.

So how does this scheme work?

First, a child or student opens a Piggy Bank savings account with us. They get a deposit box; one key is with them and the other remains with the bank. They deposit money in a general savings scheme, usually amounting to Rs 100 or Rs 200 a month. Once the amount increases to Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000, we convert their savings account into an FD account, since that offers better interest rates. This way they get an FD going for them from a young age while also realising the value of savings from that early age.

How has the experience been so far and how successful is the effort?

The experience has been great but it’s an uphill task. In between there were almost no Piggy Bank savings accounts being opened, but there has recently been a renewed interest in the scheme and many parents and children have come forward to open accounts.

What would be your advice to parents and children?

My advice would be to invest early on. Children must learn about the value and power of savings as this alone will aid them throughout their lives. I would like other banks to also take up this scheme as they will net a healthy sum while ensuring there is a good amount of money available for the children once they become adults. This will prove invaluable when it’s time to settle down later in life.

What are the financial issues parents and children face today and how would you circumvent them?

Inflation and consumerism are the big issues today for parents and children. The demands of children have increased from what it was like in my day. Instead of two sets of clothes a year, they now demand six. As teens, instead of using cycles for transportation, they want motorcycles. Cell phones are a top priority for them. They must be taught the value of savings. If they can travel by motorcycle between two points, they can just as easily use a bicycle.

What, do you think, has been the impact of this scheme on society?

A most positive impact, I feel! Families who go for this scheme have started to understand the power and value of savings. They are also more relaxed, considering they have a secure future. All in all, it has benefited society, to say the least.

How have you decided to increase the reach of this scheme?

We are thinking of diversifying the scheme into a few areas, with specific benefits for specific people and investments. We are giving our workers enhanced targets that they must meet vis-à-vis the scheme. We are also expanding on the advertisement front and will soon have ads on major TV channels.

What about rural areas, where financial knowledge is very limited? How will they gain from this?

Correct. Our rural areas have very limited knowledge about commerce. The answer to how to aid them is simply by educating them. There must be more centres opened in rural areas, so as to educate people about the benefits of investing in banks and how savings equals stability.

What is your next plan to further your concept of savings and security?

It’s simple – open a savings account for everyone, even if the sum involved is minimal. I wish to open a savings account for people even if they have only a hundred rupees on them. My idea is to introduce the concept of savings to everyone.

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