Millennium Post

Giants Ambanis, Birlas, Biyani in scramble for ‘small’ banks

The deadlines for seeking both kinds of niche banking licences ended on Monday and a final call would be taken on the applications by the RBI in due course. Those having applied for small finance bank licence include SKS Microfinance, UAE Exchange India, Dewan Housing Finance and SE Investments. RBI has introduced these two niche banking categories to push forward financial inclusion and boost savings habits.

Reliance Industries today joined hands with state-run behemoth SBI, while Bharti Airtel has partnered Kotak Mahindra Bank for seeking payments bank licences. Besides, Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd (ABNL) -- which runs mobile operator Idea Cellular -- and Kishore Biyani-promoted Future Group too applied for the same during the day. Some of the applicants, including Aditya Birla Group and UAE Exchange had also applied for full-fledged banking licenses to RBI in 2013, but their applications failed to pass the muster.

Others having sought payment bank license include Fino Paytech and Vakarangee, while sources said that telecom major Vodafone has also submitted its application. The exact number of applicants in both the categories is yet to be made public by the RBI.

Payment banks would be allowed payments and remittance services through various channels. However, such lenders, cannot issue credit cards or undertake lending activities. Small finance bank will primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and under-served sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities. Last year, RBI issued license to IDFC and Bandhan to set up full-fledged banks in first licenses, while initially 26 entities had applied including Tata group, Reliance Group, L&T and Bajaj among others. IIFL Holdings Ltd has also submitted an application to the RBI for a licence for setting up small finance bank.
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