This women's day, the financial services companies have taken a step towards increasing women participation in money matters.
The Indian society still suffers from the stigmata of gender bias. Money and financial matters are still kept as a man's business and not a concern of the female counterpart.
There are many chambers in metros as well as non metros where the women still do not have access to banking channels.
However, things are changing for the better. The financial services companies and banks have started offering special services to women. These services range from specially designed products for women to having centers with all women staff and offering special discounts on products.
Bharti AXA General Insurance has announced that it will offer 10 % discount to women on all its products for the month of March.
"The purpose... is to express our support to women across the country and educate them and their families on the growing significance and benefit of health insurance," said Amarnath Ananthanarayan, CEO, Bharti AXA General Insurance.
Banks are also pursuing efforts to include more and more women in their financial network. Canara Bank and Indian Bank have set up special all women branches in South India for the same purpose.
Canara Bank has moved ahead and set about half a dozen mahila banking cells inside branches. The bank also said that it lent around 11.95% of its net credit amounting to around 12,147 crore in 2009 only to women, as per records checked on March 2009.
Indian Bank has also started special only-women branch Dharmapuri, Andhra Pradesh. The branch supports self help groups in the neighboring areas.
The RBI had issued a circular in December 2000 stating that all public sector banks should have at least one officer in every branch to cater to the needs of the women borrowers.
"Banks should have a desk visibly placed to provide women with relevant information and guide them in making loan applications. As far as possible, the desk should be handled by a well-trained lady staff member, particularly in rural areas," the RBI circular said.
Not all banks have taken this matter seriously. Some banks like Axis Bank and ICICI Bank have introduced accounts especially for women, while others have accounts, debit as well as credit cards that suit to the needs of women.
Bank of Baroda, Citibank and HDFC Bank are some such banks.
Citibank provides a unique and noble service wherein every time the customer swipes her card, a certain sum is contributed to women-specific NGOs such as Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centers and Friends of Women World Banking.
Brokerage firms are also on this track. Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services has three women-only branches.
"We have one at Ville Parle in Mumbai, another at Kochi and a third in Chennai," said Satish Menon, director-operations at Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services.