The Reserve Bank of India, as a part of its financial literacy strategy, has devised an innovative way of promoting financial literacy by adopting comics. The first comic book, "Raju and the Money Tree", on basics of banking was launched today in Delhi on the platform of Disha Financial Counselling. The idea behind the initiative is to educate the general public about banking services. The comic book was launched by Mr. H.R. Khan, Regional Director, Reserve Bank of India, New Delhi and Mr. Harish Kulshrestha, Banking Ombudsman (Delhi and Haryana). Also present on the occasion was Mr. B. Madhivanan, Senior General Manager, ICICI Bank, officials from the Department of Education and the RBI, and representatives from social organizations and schools and colleges.

Disha Financial Counselling, a pioneering initiative in consumer financial counselling, set up under the aegis of ICICI Trusteeship Services Limited, provides financial education, credit counselling and debt management services to consumers through centres at Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kanpur, Ludhiana, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Disha's services are absolutely free and available to all, irrespective of the Bank the customer deals with.

This initiative is a part of ICICI Bank's Corporate Social Responsibility activity. "Raju and the Money Tree" is an in-house production of Reserve Bank of India. Written by Manoj K Singh, Shailaja Singh and Rupambara Padhi and illustrated by Anupam Sharma, the comic aims to educate school children on the importance of saving for the future, the advantages of keeping money safely in a bank, the procedure for opening a bank account and how banks can help meet their credit needs. The comic is available in English, Hindi, eleven regional languages and braille.

More comics on basic banking (one each for banking services for the rural poor and urban poor and one on the electronics-based no-frills account), one on currency and another on RBI as a monetary authority are planned. Also in the pipeline are comics on banking services for specific target groups, such as women, defence personnel, senior citizens, etc.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. B. Madhivanan, Senior General Manager, ICICI Bank said, "Our entire focus is on transparency and education. We see this initiative as the only sure way of introducing financial literacy in India at the grass root level. Consumer financing has just taken roots in India and it will be an excellent opportunity to time this growth of financial education with this development."

Disha would benefit the general public in numerous ways as it would increase awareness among people about financial products thus promoting better understanding and more informed decisions. The credit counselling centres will also assist consumers to pro-actively manage their debt via out-of-court procedures based on agreed repayment plans between the creditors and debtors.

Financial education aims at providing information on various new-age financial products like credit cards and personal loans and imparting basic money-management skills like saving, budgeting and investing. Credit Counselling aims at explaining the pros and cons of credit cards, loans and various such credit facilities. Debt Management aims at guidance on dealing with financial crises.

The counsellors at Disha are retired banking personnel who work with Disha on a voluntary basis. They conduct one-on-one sessions with those who come seeking Disha's services, like financially distressed borrowers. The counsellors guide consumers who have fallen into a debt trap, showing them ways of reducing and eliminating their debt and regaining control of their financial affairs. They create repayment options and solutions for honest borrowers, sometimes collaborating with both borrower and lender. They have given counsel even over the phone when consumers called up from cities that do not have a Disha centre.

Disha also helps consumers in cases of customer-service lapses by banks.

Disha also plans to open centres in other cities like Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Jaipur, etc. The addresses and phone numbers of Disha centres are available at and the all-India DISHA Helpline is available by sending DISHA as an SMS to 53030.