India's microfinance institution launches banking services
India's largest microfinance institution, Bandhan Financial Services Pvt, launched its banking operations here with 600 branches spread across 27 states, 6.7 million customers, a loan book exceeding Rs100 billion (Dh5.54 billion), and a potential deposit base of around Rs6.7 billion. These are astonishing numbers for any private bank in India on the first day of operations.
The bank will primarily cater to the unorganised sector like daily wage earners and women running small businesses - the segments that had been its borrowers for a decade. As a bank, it will also offer savings, remittance and insurance services, and compete with the established ones such as the State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, which are also in the race to have more customers from the non-banking population. Presently, the bank has 600 branches, of which 200 are in metro and urban centres. The remaining 400 are in the semi-urban and rural centres, of which 40 per cent branches are in non-banking areas.
"Our primary focus will be the eastern region where banking penetration is still poor," said Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, founder and chief executive officer of Bandhan. Former chief economic advisor to the finance ministry, Ashok Kumar Lahiri, will head a 10-member board which consists of as many as four former top bank executives such as Bhaskar Sen of United Bank of India and B Sambamurthy of Corporation Bank. Multilateral financier International Finance Corporation and the Singapore government-backed GIC are expected to invest Rs5 billion collectively in Bandhan Bank soon, taking the net worth to Rs32 billion.
The bank had announced its plans to have sales executives with sophisticated hand-held devices go to people aimed at getting more customers onboard the country's newest banking entity. "We will have 12,000 field workers carrying devices procured at a sum of Rs14,000 a piece, having multiple functionality like account opening, fund transfer, withdrawal, giving transaction statements, which would pretty much save its customers the trouble of visiting its nearby branches," Ghosh told Gulf News on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony.
The bank at present has a staff strength of more than 17,000, of which 3,000 are new recruits and 400 taken laterally from other banks. India got its first private bank after 11 years. Kotak Mahindra Bank and YES Bank were the last to be given private bank licenses. "Bandhan Bank is the first to be off the block as the new the new era ushers in the country's finance and banking field," said Uday Kotak, head of Kotak group.