Long bank queues in India? There’s an app for that!

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NEW DELHI: Huge bank queues have become an ubiquitous sight across India after the government suddenly withdrew the two highest denomination notes from circulation two weeks ago — but now you can hire-a-queuer online.

New Delhi-based startup BookMyChotu — a play on the Hindi word “chotu” meaning “little one” — is cashing in on the cash crunch, offering a solution for those willing to pay someone to stand in line for them.

“Are you short of cash? Need a Helper to stand in queue of the bank/atm till the time your turn comes??”, reads an ad on the company’s Facebook page.

“Our boys will not go inside bank, they will just stand in the queue for our customers as we understand that there can be some emergency and our helpers can help you by saving your valuable time.”

A “chotu” costs 90 rupees ($1.30) per hour or 550 rupees for waiting for a maximum of eight hours, and is only available in Delhi and neighbouring cities.

Indians have until the end of the year to exchange their old 500 and 1,000 notes — 85 percent of the cash in circulation — for the new 500 and 2,000 rupee bills, or deposit them into accounts.

The surprise decision is part of the government’s assault on “Black money” — undeclared, unaccounted cash — and aims to bring more money into the formal banking system and ultimately boost the economy.

But it has caused a rush on the banks, while shortages of new notes and problems recalibrating ATMs to fit the new bills have seen hours-long queues form outside banks nationwide.

BookMyChotu was originally launched as an online platform to help people hire temporary helpers, but founder and CEO Satjeet Singh Bedi said he had received positive and curious responses since they started offering “chotus” to stand in bank queues.

“It started when my mother was ill and I immediately needed cash,” Bedi told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
“I requested my teammates to stand in the queue in place of me and quickly replaced them when my turn came.”

But some on social media have criticised the site’s name, saying “chotu” implies child labour.
“Really @bookmychotu!? Can’t find any better name? This appears to promote child labour,” tweeted Mahendra.

“A service called bookmychotu to hire helpers…sounds so wrong on so many levels!” wrote Muskaan.

The company appeared ready for the criticism, and in a disclaimer on the site wrote: “*Please Note: “Chotu” is just a name and the same is being used for branding purposes. We have no intentions to hurt anyone’s sentiments.”

All helpers are well trained and over the age of 18, the company added on its Facebook page.

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