Indian Banking Sector Information

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The Indian Banking Sector
On the Road to Progress

G. H. Deolalkar

G. H. Deolalkar is formerly Managing Director of State Bank of India.



Overview of Banking and Financial Institutions
The Banking Sector
The banking system in India is significantly different from that of other Asian nations because of the country’s unique geographic, social, and economic characteristics. India has a large population and land size, a diverse culture, and extreme disparities in income, which are marked among its regions. There are high levels of illiteracy among a large percentage of its population but, at the same time, the country has a large reservoir of managerial and technologically advanced talents. Between about 30 and 35 percent of the population resides in metro and urban cities and the rest is spread in several semi-urban and rural centers. The country’s economic policy framework combines socialistic and capitalistic features with a heavy bias towards public sector investment. India has followed the path of growth-led exports rather than the “exportled growth” of other Asian economies, with emphasis on self-reliance through import substitution. These features are reflected in the structure, size, and diversity of the country’s banking and financial sector. The banking system has had to serve the goals of economic policies enunciated in successive fiveyear development plans, particularly concerning equitable income distribution, balanced regional economic growth, and the reduction and elimination of private sector monopolies in trade and industry. In order for the banking industry to serve as an instrument of state policy, it was subjected to various nationalization schemes in different phases (1955, 1969, and 1980). As a result, banking remained internationally isolated (few Indian banks had presence abroad in international financial centers) because of preoccupations with domestic priorities, especially massive branch expansion and attracting more people to the system. Moreover, the sector has been assigned the role of providing support to other economic sectors such as agriculture, small-scale indus-

tries, exports, and banking activities in the developed commercial centers (i.e., metro, urban, and a limited number of semi-urban centers). The banking system’s international isolation was also due to strict branch licensing controls on foreign banks already operating in the country as well as entry restrictions facing new foreign banks. A criterion of reciprocity is required for any Indian bank to open an office abroad. These features have left the Indian banking sector with weaknesses and strengths. A big challenge facing Indian banks is how, under the current ownership structure, to attain operational efficiency suitable for modern financial intermediation. On the other hand, it has been relatively easy for the public sector banks to recapitalize, given the increases in nonperforming assets (NPAs), as their Governmentdominated ownership structure has reduced the conflicts of interest that private banks would face.

Financial Structure
The Indian financial system comprises the following institutions: 1. Commercial banks a. Public sector b. Private sector c. Foreign banks d. Cooperative institutions (i) Urban cooperative banks (ii) State cooperative banks (iii) Central cooperative banks 2. Financial institutions a. All-India financial institutions (AIFIs) b. State financial corporations (SFCs) c. State industrial development corporations (SIDCs) 3. Nonbanking financial companies (NBFCs) 4. Capital market intermediaries About 92 percent of the country’s banking segment is under State control while the balance comprises private sector and foreign banks. The public sector commercial...
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