MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: From currency note conversion desks to mobile ATMs and temporary cash withdrawal counters, India Inc. is going all out to help its employees tide over the cash crunch after the government made high-denomination notes illegal two weeks ago.
The sudden invalidation of 86% of India’s currency by value, along with curbs on withdrawals from bank accounts and ATMs and on exchange of old notes, made cash scarce and resulted in long queues outside banks every day.
To help meet the cash needs of their employees, companies, including Infosys, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Yatra-.com, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej, EY, Vodafone, Ericsson India, Chaayos and Marico, have been proactive since November 8, more so as the end of the month approaches and the next salary cycle starts.
What companies have done, broadly, is bring banking facilities to the office premises and switch to cashless modes of transactions such as plastic currency and mobile or digital wallets. These apart, they have been generous with time off for staff. Ecommerce giant Flipkart, based in Bengaluru, has tied up with a bank to set up desks at its offices where old notes can be swapped for new, in accordance with RBI guidelines. The facility has been used by more than 60% of the employees. “This provision was also availed by office support staff as they would need it the most,” said a Flipkart spokesperson.
The Godrej Group partnered with ICICI Bank to set up a currency exchange desk at its headquarters in the Mumbai suburb of Vikhroli on November 15. All Godrej employees could exchange old notes with official identity documents. ATMs on its premises were upgraded to dispense new currency notes.
“We host two ATM machines at our headquarters in Mumbai. They were recalibrated and replenished with the official currency on November 10, which has been very useful,” said Sumit Mitra, head-group human resources and corporate services at Godrej.
Axis Bank, where several top companies have their salary accounts, said it is organising micro-ATMs for employees of Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Infosys, among other private and public sector companies.
Companies are granting employees leave to go to banks, providing advances to those travelling on work, organising sessions to educate staff on mobile wallets and making in-house vendor transactions cashless.
Infosys and Chaayos are encouraging employees to use smart cards and digital wallets. MakeMyTrip is telling staff to bill their travel expenses, including tickets, to the company so that they don’t incur any expenditure on their own. “We have had sessions to educate the staff on mobile wallets so that they can use them more. All our inhouse cafe transactions have been moved to Paytm,” said Ripudaman Gill, head of human resources at Chaayos.
Infosys is working closely with multiple service providers and most of the ATMs on its campuses have been recalibrated to dispense new notes. The IT company has started a token system in its office premises to reduce time spent standing in ATM queues, said Richard Lobo, head of HR. All its ATMs are replenished at regular intervals to cater to about 25,000 employees in Bengaluru. There are 10 ATMs in the 50 Infosys buildings located in the city. The country’s second-largest software services company has embarked on a zero-cash model at its food courts. “We are also exploring the option of installing micro-ATMs via certain service providers,” said Lobo.
“Employees are asking for time-off for going to banks. So, we don’t have a problem with them taking leave for that. We are allowing them to take leave as and when they need to for this,” said Sharat Dhall, president of travel portal Yatra.com. Additionally, Yatra is giving advances to those travelling on work so that they don’t have to spend their own cash, he said. Companies agree that apart from meeting the immediate cash needs of their employees, such measures ensure that the staff don’t have to stand in serpentine queues to withdraw cash during office hours, which could affect productivity.
Vodafone India, the country’s second-largest telecom company, is educating employees about its M-Pesa app, which enables cash withdrawal from select M-Pesa stores, apart from setting up cash withdrawal counters at its premises.
All vendors within Vodafone offices are now M-Pesa-enabled. Employees can load their M-Pesa wallets with debit or credit cards and use them. “All our employees have appreciated this initiative as they have found an alternative to skip long ATM queues. In some offices, we have set up cashout counters to assist employees withdraw cash through M-Pesa,” said a company spokesperson.
EY, one of the Big 4 audit firms, said it plans to continue with kiosks and mobile ATMs at periodic intervals across its offices. “This will make sure that a maximum number of our people can benefit from this facility in the office premises,” said Sandeep Kohli, national director of human resources.
Telecom company MTS India installed its first on-premises ATM at its corporate office in New Delhi. The company had requested the facility about two months ago and by expediting efforts after the demonetisation was announced, was able to get the ATM installed on November 10.
Source: Times of India