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Indian Banking Industry

Banking in India originated in the first decade of 18th century with The General Bank of India coming into existence in 1786. This was followed by Bank of Hindustan. Both these banks are now defunct. The oldest bank in existence in India is the State Bank of India being established as "The Bank of Bengal" in Calcutta in June 1806. A couple of decades later, foreign banks like Credit Lyonnais started their Calcutta operations in the 1850s. At that point of time, Calcutta was the most active trading port, mainly due to the trade of the British Empire, and due to which banking activity took roots there and prospered. The first fully Indian owned bank was the Allahabad Bank, which was established in 1865.

By the 1900s, the market expanded with the establishment of banks such as Punjab National Bank, in 1895 in Lahore and Bank of India, in 1906, in Mumbai - both of which were founded under private ownership. The Reserve Bank of India formally took on the responsibility of regulating the Indian banking sector from 1935. After India's independence in 1947, the Reserve Bank was nationalized and given broader powers.

Nationalisation

By the 1960s, the Indian banking industry has become an important tool to facilitate the development of the Indian economy. At the same time, it has emerged as a large employer, and a debate has ensued about the possibility to nationalize the banking industry. Indira Gandhi, the-then Prime Minister of India expressed the intention of the GOI in the annual conference of the All India Congress Meeting in a paper entitled "Stray thoughts on Bank Nationalisation." The paper was received with positive enthusiasm. Thereafter, her move was swift and sudden, and the GOI issued an ordinance and nationalised the 14 largest commercial banks with effect from the midnight of July 19, 1969. Jayaprakash Narayan, a national leader of India, described the step as a "masterstroke of political sagacity." Within two weeks of the issue of the ordinance, the Parliament passed the Banking Companies (Acquition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill, and it received the presidential approval on 9th August, 1969.

A second dose of nationalisation of 6 more commercial banks followed in 1980. The stated reason for the nationalisation was to give the government more control of credit delivery. With the second dose of nationalisation, the GOI controlled around 91% of the banking business of India.

After this, until the 1990s, the nationalised banks grew at a pace of around 4%, closer to the average growth rate of the Indian economy.

Liberalisation

In the early 1990s the then Narasimha Rao government embarked on a policy of liberalisation and gave licences to a small number of private banks, which came to be known as New Generation tech-savvy banks, which included banks such as UTI Bank(now re-named as Axis Bank) (the first of such new generation banks to be set up), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank. This move, along with the rapid growth in the economy of India, kickstarted the banking sector in India, which has seen rapid growth with strong contribution from all the three sectors of banks, namely, government banks, private banks and foreign banks.

The next stage for the Indian banking has been setup with the proposed relaxation in the norms for Foreign Direct Investment, where all Foreign Investors in banks may be given voting rights which could exceed the present cap of 10%,at present it has gone up to 49% with some restrictions.

The new policy shook the Banking sector in India completely. Bankers, till this time, were used to the 4-6-4 method (Borrow at 4%;Lend at 6%;Go home at 4) of functioning. The new wave ushered in a modern outlook and tech-savvy methods of working for traditional banks.All this led to the retail boom in India. People not just demanded more from their banks but also received more.

Current Situation

Currently (2007), banking in India is generally fairly mature in terms of supply, product range and reach-even though reach in rural India still remains a challenge for the private sector and foreign banks. In terms of quality of assets and capital adequacy, Indian banks are considered to have clean, strong and transparent balance sheets relative to other banks in comparable economies in its region. The Reserve Bank of India is an autonomous body, with minimal pressure from the government. The stated policy of the Bank on the Indian Rupee is to manage volatility but without any fixed exchange rate-and this has mostly been true.

With the growth in the Indian economy expected to be strong for quite some time-especially in its services sector-the demand for banking services, especially retail banking, mortgages and investment services are expected to be strong. One may also expect M&As, takeovers, and asset sales.

In March 2006, the Reserve Bank of India allowed Warburg Pincus to increase its stake in Kotak Mahindra Bank (a private sector bank) to 10%. This is the first time an investor has been allowed to hold more than 5% in a private sector bank since the RBI announced norms in 2005 that any stake exceeding 5% in the private sector banks would need to be vetted by them.

Currently, India has 88 scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) - 28 public sector banks (that is with the Government of India holding a stake), 29 private banks (these do not have government stake; they may be publicly listed and traded on stock exchanges) and 31 foreign banks. They have a combined network of over 53,000 branches and 17,000 ATMs. According to a report by ICRA Limited, a rating agency, the public sector banks hold over 75 percent of total assets of the banking industry, with the private and foreign banks holding 18.2% and 6.5% respectively.


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