Visa introduces debit card to India

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BOMBAY--Visa International will by mid-December launch its first debit card in India after introducing the product this month in parts of Asia.

Negotiations are on with a few banks in India to launch the Visa debit card in a market that so far has seen only credit and charge cards. Visa trails behind MasterCard International in India and China despite being the overall Asian leader. It recently launched its ambitious SBI card in conjunction with India's No. 1 bank, State Bank of India.

"The [debit] card will be inexpensive and will not require any significant investment in infrastructure by merchant establishments," says James G. Murray, exec VP for Greater China and Southeast Asia at Visa.

The franchise is simultaneously working on plans to expand its network of retailers and establishments accepting Visa cards. The new strategy entails a focus on the Indian middle classes, more ATM machines in conjunction with local partners and penetration in smaller Indian cities and towns.

Ambitious plans are also afoot to tap into the vast customer base of the State Bank of India for the Visa-backed SBI Card. The State Bank targets 1 million customers for the credit card by 2001.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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