In April 2009, when Kundapur Vaman Kamath stepped down as the managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of ICICI Bank Ltd, India’s largest private lender, he said he would spend his time learning the liberal arts, watching Formula 1 car races, and playing with his grandchildren. Those who know Kamath well did not take him seriously. They were right.
Until April, the Indian banking industry had opened about 150 million bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), the most ambitious financial inclusion programme ever attempted in any part of the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scheme in his first Independence Day speech in 2014. It was launched in August with a target to open bank accounts for 75 million poor people by 26 January 2015.
Piyush Gupta, chief executive officer at DBS Group Holdings Ltd and DBS Bank Ltd, has the guts. His bank, Singapore’s largest, has moved the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with a proposal for local incorporation even as its larger peers in India have been mulling over this for years now. In 2005, for the first time, RBI laid down the road map for foreign banks in India.
My column last week on the human resources crisis in India’s public sector banks (PSBs) evoked strong reactions from a few senior bankers. The chiefs of two public sector banks told me that my apprehensions are “highly exaggerated”. The PSBs, according to them, have the systems and processes in place to carry on and grow business.