Capitalising on the near-insatiable demand of Indians for jewels and precious metals and stones, a local company has launched what it claims to be the world's first ATM that dispenses diamonds, jewellery items and gold and silver coins.
Sanjeev Agarwal of the Mumbai-based Gitanjali Group that developed the ATM and plans on setting up 75 across India at retail outlets, temples and airports said they would be a "one-stop shop to buy medallions, coins and jewellery".
The first machine began operating last month in central Mumbai and had served "a substantial number of customers", Agarwal said.
It offers nearly 40 products ranging from 10g gold coins embossed with the image of Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, to diamond-studded pendants with religious motifs priced from US$20 ($25) to US$610.
Payments for all purchases are via credit and debit cards and the manufacturers claim that these esoteric ATMs will be especially expedient for last-minute gifts.
It even offers choices for occasions such as Valentine's Day or to a husband who forgot an anniversary or his wife's birthday, Agarwal said.
He also maintained that this ATM would revolutionise the processes by which precious metals and jewellery were routinely purchased on auspicious days, mostly by the majority Hindu community.
Besides large amounts of cash, millions of Hindus customarily donate gold, silver and jewellery to thousands of temples across the country. The hundi, or massive container for offerings, in India's most visited Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam temple complex in southern Andhra Pradesh state, for example, which is emptied innumerable times every day, receives around 10kg of gold ornaments each week in addition to wads of cash from devotees.
Tens of thousands of followers line up each day for a few seconds in front of this temple's deity to proffer their rich offerings.
The Temple Trust regularly sends solid gold ornaments to the mint in Mumbai to be melted down into 22-carat "dollar coins" which are sold off to Lord Venkateshwara's devotees worldwide.
India is also the world's largest consumer of gold with more than 900 tonnes acquired last year, according to the British-based World Gold Council.
Last week's Diwali festival of lights and the impending wedding season lasting several months also boost the demand for gold across India to incalculable proportions.
The Gitanjali Group claims to be the world's largest integrated maker of branded jewellery from sourcing diamonds and other precious stones to retailing similar products through a network of over 3600 retail outlets including some in the United States.
It recently acquired some Italian jewellery and watch manufacturers and market analysts look upon these ATMs as anovel vehicle for marketing their costly wares.