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BW Businessworld

No Guns, No Roses

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Not a fortnight passes by without a snippet -- at least -- on how a bank was left red-faced as cash was fed into its automated teller machine (ATM). That is some Danny Ocean walked away rich. It can only get worse.
It’s well over two years since cash logistics firms (CLF) – the ones who load cash into ATMs, take it from toll-posts to banks or in general, move cash about town – raised red-flags over the security aspect of the game. That gun licenses are hard to come by. The matter was taken up with the Reserve Bank of India which said that gun licences came under the purview of the Home Ministry. The deadlock continues.
"Its nobody's concern, but our's! The media goes to town with a robbery story. But do you know what we go through everyday", asks the CEO of a CLF.
Trouble started when three states -- Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – clamped down on gun licenses. That too in an industry where they were hard to come by in the first instance. Now roughly 4,000 weapons are needed to run daily operations of CLFs. Under the terms of contract terms, CLFs have to provide armed guards or they will not be able to get insurance cover for the cash and valuables they move about. It’s not good news as the boom in retail (banking and sundry retailing) means you have much more cash to sort, replenish and carry around. It is estimated to be an Rs 1,500-crore industry: about 10,000 cash vans ply on roads; employs close to 50,000 and expected to grow at 50 per cent annually.
It’s an industry where numbers are hard to come by; it’s also secretive by nature. The big four in the business — CMS, Brinks, SIS-Prosegur and Writers — share 80 per cent of the market between them and, on an average, cart over Rs 20,000 crore in cash daily. Which means, in a year, it is a whopping Rs 73 lakh crore. Add all CLFs and it is Rs 91.25 lakh crore. This was the math two years ago; insiders say that amount would now top closer to Rs 100 lakh crore.
That’s because the installed ATM base is now at 1,93,000; it is lower than what the London-based Retail Banking Research’s (RBR) projection of 2,25,000 for 2014. RBR — a strategic research and consulting firm in retail banking, automation and payment systems — reports are the gold standard in this line of business. The ATM rollout may have slowed down, but you can’t get away from the fact that about 50,000 new units are deployed every year (this includes replacements of old machines and installations at new sites as well).
And that means more cash on the road needs to be guarded. With the curb on guns, that can prove to big headache for CLFs. But if you are in the Danny Ocean mould, it’s a great chance to move in and make a killing!

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