Profiles: Bankable Performance

Saraswat Bank bagged Technology Awards for two consecutive years in 2004 and
2005 from the Indian Banking Association. The 2004 award was a special one for
creating a distributed database to connect all branches of the bank. The 2005
award that followed was a recognition for being the first cooperative bank to
deploy core banking. As head of IT of the bank, Urvashi Dharadhar has changed
the paradigm of banking in the cooperative banking space. Today, Saraswat Bank
is the first and only cooperative bank to have deployed core banking and provide
ATM facilities to its customers. Says Dharadhar, “Today we are competing with
MNC and private banks and we would like to use technology as an enabler to match
the standard of service.”

A qualified chartered secretary, Dharadhar has spent 26 years with Saraswat
Bank where she started her career as an officer. Varied responsibilities and
roles across various departments over the years have stood in good stead for
her. Says Dharadhar, “Different job roles over the years have not just helped
me understand the nuances of banking but also the culture of the enterprise.”
Domain knowledge is key to any industry and exposure to different aspects of
banking gave Dharadhar a holistic perspective to recognize the business needs of
Sarasawat Bank and how technology can play a key role in providing a strategic


head, IT,
Saraswat Cooperative Bank & CEO, Saraswat Infotech

Change management is a key component of any system and a big challenge too,
especially in a public sector setup. One, there is resistance to change and two,
there are lots of bureaucratic hurdles. Given the circumstances, Saraswat
Bank’s project on ‘Any Branch Banking’ which was about connecting all
branches was completed within a record span of one month. Today, Saraswat Bank
is the only cooperative bank to offer Internet banking. Under the directives of
the RBI, an IT coordination group comprising heads of all departments, meets to
discuss the business requirements of the bank and how IT can play a role to take
on competition in the market.

Today, core banking has not just helped the bank to meet its revenue target
of Rs 10,000 crore for the fiscal ending March 31, 2006, but has helped it
surpass the target. Saraswat Bank’s customer base has increased significantly
and stands at over 10,000. Says Dharadhar, “We have managed to attract
customers from both foreign and private banks.”

There is one challenge that still remains-the need to create a comfort
level towards technology for the employees, especially the ones who form the
interface with the customer. There are extensive and detailed training programs
conducted for this purpose which Dharadhar personally leads at times.

Today, Saraswat Infotech, a subsidiary of the bank, has been spun off as an
independent entity to primarily support the IT needs of the bank as well as
translate IT into a profit center. Apart from banking, Dharadhar is passionate
about social work. She heads the Ladies Entrepreneurship cell of the Maharashtra
Chamber of Commerce. That is what she would like to devote herself to when she
ceases to be banker. Way to go!

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