State Bank of India to unveil Project Lotus; here is how you can gain

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Saves you interest even if you pay for a purchase in installments. And lets you sell shares or cherry-pick a mutual fund scheme.

A superstore that gives you exclusive deals when you shop for shoes or smartphones. Lets you check out homes within your budget. Saves you interest even if you pay for a purchase in installments. And lets you sell shares or cherry-pick a mutual fund scheme. In addition to helping you keep track of your spends.

That’s the new digital platform from State Bank of India (SBI) — code-named Project Lotus — to be unveiled both as a website and an app. What will be unique about the portal is the large universe of retailers and the wide range of goods and services that customers will have access to. And also the easy payment terms, sans interest if the e-retailer is willing.

The country’s largest lender is hoping Project Lotus — which promises to take care of practically every consumer need online — will help it not just add but also retain customers, especially among the younger generation. The idea is to be able to track both spends and investments closely and present customers with suitable products and services, thereby converting searches into transactions.

Supported by a technological backbone from IBM, the product comprises a digital bank that offers an entire suite of services and the superstore which allows you to shop from close to 300 e-retailers and merchants with offers tailor-made for a consumer.

For instance, if a customer sets his sights on a smartphone on an e-commerce site, he can pay for it in instalments but may not need to fork out an interest component. If the e-retailer is willing to fund the purchase without charging the customer interest, it’s because the customer has been directed to its site by SBI. Also, there’s greater comfort in dealing with an SBI customer.

The bank is relying on data gleaned from the financial behaviour of consumers. The website/app will also make product recommendations and offers suitable for them.

The strategy is one where the lender converts enquiries into business by tracking customer ‘journeys’ as opposed to one where products are pushed in random fashion. For instance, a couple scouting for a home loan would be directed to a specific set of properties that matches their needs and budget rather than being presented with a long and somewhat irrelevant list. Needless to add, SBI would already have certified these projects. The home loan search would also take into account other interests — a foodie, for instance, would be served up homes in a restaurant district.

The merchants that SBI intends to team up with will include not just manufacturers of products or e-retailers such as Flipkart but service providers too. Anyone moving into a new home, for instance, can hope for a good deal from packers and movers.

On the shelves of the financial superstore will be products not just from the SBI group but also those from other players, even competitors. However, the platform will not allow for loans to be sanctioned since these require a wet signature.