SAFL: India’s First Dedicated Agriculture Loan Company

NBFCs over the years have played a vital role in the development of the economy, be it in financial intermediation in rural and semi-urban areas or financing activities that are engines of growth, such as transport, infrastructure, farm and MSMEs. NBFCs growth during the last two years has been quite impressive in spite of the challenging environment and developments like demonetization. Moreover, this has been a healthy growth as reflected in the better asset quality and that too complying with the regulatory framework, which have been harmonized with that for banks and other financial institutions.
The trends emerging in India in terms of newer NBFCs entering various segments are highly encouraging. Sustainable Agro-commercial Finance Ltd. (SAFL) is the first NBFC in India providing Agri- loans with a wide and diverse range of financing options for almost every need of agricultural activity. The NBFC is commonly recognized by its acronym; SAFL (pronounced SAFAL). It is a unique NBFC promoted by Jain Irrigation Systems Limited (JISL). SAFL is focusing its activities on Farm and Farmer only and operates in the rural & semi urban geographies of India.
SAFL was incorporated in February 2011 and SAFL is headquartered in Mumbai with 72 offices across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. It plans to have a pan-India presence in next 5 years. The ethos is to make the individual farmer’s life “SAFAL”. The organizations aim is directed at farmer empowerment, increased agricultural production and rural prosperity. SAFL’s activities are focused on Farm and the Farmer. It has been setup with the objective of serving the small farmer and rural constituencies in India in a comprehensive manner.
Artisan behind SAFL
Shri Arvind Sonmale, Managing Director & CEO of SAFL is a career Banker having been in the industry for over 42 years. Born in Pune, India in July 1950, Shri Arvind Sonmale completed his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering in 1971. He started his banking career as a Probationary Officer in State Bank of India (SBI) in July 1975. His 9 plus years with State Bank of India (SBI) took him through various areas of commercial banking responsibilities including that of a Branch Manager of a SBI’s office in Panaji (Goa) and in SBI’s International Division at its apex Central Office in Mumbai.
Services Offered by SAFL
The main products financed by the Company include Micro Irrigation Systems (MIS) like drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation, Agri Projects, Contract Farming, Lift irrigation schemes, Small Business Loans, Solar Pumps & Appliances, Third Party Tie-ups etc. SAFL only finances products which result in increased farm productivity and improvement in the economic betterment and lifestyle of the farmers.
Strategies to Overcome Initial Hiccups
The definition of sustainable agriculture looks at a holistic approach to farming. With sustainable agriculture and water conservation as its main focus, SAFL took up the pilot project for financing agriculture and allied activities in January 2013. Selected farmers were introduced to the drip irrigation facility at highly competitive interest rates. SAFL also worked with the Government authorities to ensure a proper channel of subsidies for the micro-irrigation systems.
The efficiency of water usage under conventional methods of irrigation, which is predominantly practised in Indian agriculture, is very low due to substantial conveyance and distribution losses. Recognizing the fast decline of irrigation water potential and increasing demand for water from different sectors, a number of demand management strategies and programmes have been introduced to save water and increase the existing water use efficiency in Indian agriculture.
One such method introduced in Indian agriculture is micro-irrigation, which includes both drip and sprinkler method of irrigation. Micro-irrigation is proved to be an efficient method in saving water and increasing water use efficiency as compared to the conventional surface method of irrigation, where water use efficiency is only about 35-40 percent. Around 75% of SAFL’s product portfolio comprises financing of drip irrigation/micro-irrigation. SAFL’s micro-irrigation initiative has not only conserved water, but also increased the crop yield thereby having a direct impact on the lives of the farmers. In its four and half years of business operations, SAFL has extended loans of over Rs. 545 crores to more than 36000 farmers.
Awards, Achievements and Recognitions
SAFL was honored with the “Best NBFC of the Year” award at an eventful function held at Taj Lands End, Mumbai on Wednesday, February 14th 2018. This award was received at the BFSI Event organized by World HRD Congress, presented by ET Now ‘Rise with India’. Shri Arvind Sonmale was honored with the ‘Leadership Award’ at the recently held ‘2nd NBFC100 Tech Summit’ at Bengaluru on 07th December, 2017. The summit was organized by Elets Technomedia and powered by the Banking & Finance Post Magazine, to cover the factors affecting the rapid growth and upcoming opportunities within the NBFCs. He was also a part of the panel discussion as a Key Speaker with other CEOs, MDs and leaders from finance and other sectors all of whom shared their individual views over the growing factors within the NBFC.
Source :-The 10 Most Admired Non Banking Financial Companies In 2018

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