Everything you need to know about India’s brand new payments banks

India’s massive post office network can now become a bank.
India’s massive post office network can now become a bank.
Image: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia
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India will soon get its first set of payments banks, after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) approved in-principle licenses for 11 applicants on Aug. 19.

These applicants now have 18 months to fulfill a list of requirements laid down by the RBI, before they can be granted a full license. In all, 41 firms and individuals had applied.

These payments bank will be allowed to accept deposits (of up to Rs1 lakh), provide payments and remittances services, and distribute third-party financial products. But unlike regular banks, they won’t be allowed to lend or issue credit cards, although they can provide debit cards and internet banking facilities.

The underlying objective is to use these new banks to push for greater financial inclusion. Currently, almost 50% of Indians don’t have a bank account and only about 30,000 of India’s 5.94 lakh villages have a commercial bank branch. Much of this imbalance has to do with the inability of bigger banks to reach into the hinterland, even as other service providers, such as telecom operators, have made deep inroads.

In a statement, the RBI said that it has selected entities with experience in different sectors and with different capabilities so that various models could be tried.

“The committee of the central board did ensure that all the selected applicants have the reach and the technological and financial strength to service hitherto excluded customers across the country,” the central bank added.

Here is a complete list of India’s new payments bank license holders:

  1.  Aditya Birla Nuvo: A part of the $41 billion Aditya Birla group, a conglomerate controlled by billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, the firm already has a presence in financial and telecom services. It has an asset management business, a private equity firm, and also offers non-banking financial services among others. The group’s telecom arm, Idea Cellular, already operates mobile wallet services. Last year, the firm had applied to the RBI for a banking license, but failed to get one.
  2. Airtel M Commerce Services: Owned by telecom operator Bharti Airtel, Airtel M Commerce also operates a mobile wallet service. On Aug. 4, the firm acquired YTS Solutions, a mobile payments startup, to help expand its offerings. It has partnered with Kotak Mahindra Bank to set up the payments bank, with Kotak intending to pick up a 19% stake in the company. Airtel, the Bharti group’s telecom service provider, could potentially play an important role in helping the firm to penetrate rural markets.
  3. Cholamandalam Distribution Services: The firm is a subsidiary of Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company (Chola), the financial services arm of Chennai-based Murugappa Group. Chola is already present in the financial services sector, with over 534 branches providing financing and similar offerings across India, and has Rs25,000 crore worth of assets under management.
  4. Department of Posts: India’s storied postal department was one of the applicants for a banking license last year, but the RBI didn’t oblige. With one of the largest postal network in the world, India Post has incredible access to the hinterland: About 90% of the 1.4 lakh post offices are located in rural areas. This reach itself gives the postal department the biggest advantage over other players.
  5. Fino PayTech: The business and banking technology platform provider operates India’s largest network of business correspondent. These correspondents helps lenders reach out to rural customers who don’t have easy access to bank branches. The firm is backed by marquee private equity firms like Blackstone and the World Bank’s IFC. India’s ICICI Bank also owns a stake in the company. “Currently, 90% of transactions are in cash and are estimated to be of multiple trillions; we believe there is a huge opportunity for payments banks to power these transactions electronically,” Rishi Gupta, managing director and CEO of Fino PayTech told the Mint newspaper after the licenses were announced.
  6. National Securities Depository Limited: NSDL is India’s first and largest depository, which handles most of the securities held and settled electronically in the country’s capital market. It is promoted by IDBI Bank, the Unit Trust of India and the National Stock Exchange. At least eleven public and private bankers own stakes in NSDL including State Bank of India, Deutsche Bank AG, HDFC Bank and Citibank.
  7. Reliance Industries: Run by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, RIL has tied up with the State Bank of India—the country’s largest lender—to set up a payments bank. RIL will hold 70% in the joint venture.
  8. Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi: Shanghvi, owner of Sun Pharma, had applied in his personal capacity. His personal investment firm, Dilip Shanghvi Family and Associates (DSA), is tying up with Telenor, the Norwegian telecom company and IDFC, a non-banking financial company that last year secured a full-service banking license.
  9. Vijay Shekhar Sharma: Sharma is the founder of India’s largest mobile payments company, Paytm. The firm—with investors including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba—last week announced that it has crossed 100 million users in India, with some 75 million transactions every month. The license will help the company grow and provide a range of financial services to millions of Paytm users.
  10. Tech Mahindra: The information technology firm is part of the $16.5 billion Mahindra group, which has interests in financial services, automobiles, retail and real estate among others. Tech Mahindra already owns a mobile payments platform, MoboMoney, which operates a ”tap and pay” system.
  11. Vodafone M-Pesa: A little over two years after telecom major Vodafone launched m-pesa, its money transfer service in India, it has now secured a payments bank license. Sunil Sood, managing director and CEO of Vodafone said that the license will help the company to build on its payments and money transfer network across India. “With over 90,000 agents, we are already providing people in remote areas a convenient way to transfer money and make payments in a safe and secure manner,” Sood said.