Travel company Thomas Cook India has teamed up with Western Union Business Solutions and India’s DCB Bank to help the country’s SMEs perform cross-border trade payments.

Under the agreement, Thomas Cook will reach out to its SME client base and the larger SME market to refer their trade transactions to DCB Bank through the Western Union platform.

The idea is to leverage Western Union’s payment technology and DCB Bank’s trade finance expertise to improve relationship management and automate payment confirmation, ultimately enhancing procurement for SMEs.

Mahesh Iyer, chief operating officer of Thomas Cook India, explains: “This alliance is a pioneering move by Thomas Cook India, to penetrate the high growth Indian SME segment for its international trade payment requirements. SMEs form a dynamic segment; noteworthy in that the number of new entrants is seeing strong growth of 23%. At Thomas Cook India, we are delighted to collaborate with Western Union Business Solutions and DCB Bank in offering expertise and convenience to our SME customers in their outward trade payment solutions.”

Praveen Kutty, head of retail and SME banking at DCB Bank, adds: “DCB Bank believes that this solution is ideal for MSME (micro and small and medium enterprises) and SMEs. Both MSMEs and SMEs are important contributors to the economy. The business alliance with DCB Bank, Thomas Cook India and Western Union Business Solutions has the vision to empower MSMEs and SMEs by providing a smooth and convenient trade remittance facility.”

According to KPMG, SMEs have emerged as one of India’s largest-growing sectors, with a significant GDP contribution of over 17% in 2014, and are expected to see strong growth to a contribution of around 22% of GDP by 2020.

Yet, as in many other countries, the segment is largely underserved by commercial banks, which has resulted in the emergence of alternative funders and technology platforms aiming to tap the opportunity. Examples include and Smergers.

To GTR’s knowledge, this is the first time a travel company has offered trade finance services, but other industries with wide SME customer bases have gradually been expanding to include a finance aspect – the most prominent example of this trend is China’s wholesale e-commerce platform Alibaba.