Unbanked population to be Bandhans priority

Written by Mithun Dasgupta | Kolkata | Updated: Apr 4 2014, 17:36pm hrs
The countrys largest microfinance institution (MFI) Bandhan, which won a banking licence on Wednesday, will focus on tapping the large unbanked population along with catering to its existing customers, especially women, in rural areas.

We will continue to give services to the existing customers. We will continue our focus on priority sector lending. The financial products being offered to our customers will only increase after we secured the licence, said Bandhan Financial Services chairman & managing director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh.

The Kolkata-based micro lender has made its presence felt in 22 states and Union Territories in its 13 years of operations. About 80% of its total branches are in rural areas. It currently has a network of more than 2,000 branches across India with a customer base of 54 lakhs.

Bandhan as an MFI has so far catered to 54 lakh customers. But now as a bank we can offer them a bouquet of services, including deposits and remittances, which we were not able to provide earlier, said Ghosh.

He said there is a huge potential for Bandhan to expand in unbanked areas of the country.

The MFI major said one of the major focus areas would be to give women of economically backward region greater access to formal banking services. About 60% of our population does not have a bank account. If we can, (we will) cater to those people, which earlier parked their hard-earned money in dubious schemes like chit funds, Ghosh pointed out.

On opening bank branches, he said the microfinance major was carrying out a geo-mapping programme to select feasible locations for the upcoming branches. He said the banking service was expected to launch within a year.

Bandhan said it would not require additional capital to kickstart operations but would be open to capital infusion whenever required to expand network and maintain capital adequacy under Basel-III norms. Asked if Bandhan will face the big challenge to meet the CRR as well as SLR requirements, Ghosh said, I dont think so. These are regulatory requirements and we will have to meet them.