to give," Parekh said.
Earlier, there were apprehensions that RBI might not allow companies with exposure to certain high-risk sectors like brokerage and real estate to seek banking licenses, while there were also voices of opposition against large business] houses being allowed to set up banks.
However, the final guideline does not exclude any aspirants on the basis of their business interests and rather focusses on 'fit and proper' criteria for grant of licences.
RBI has said the applicants should have a past record of sound credentials, integrity and financial strength with a successful track record of 10 years. RBI has fixed a minimum equity capital level of Rs 500 crore for the banking license aspirants, while capping the foreign holding in the first five years to 49 per cent and mandating 25 per cent of branches in rural area.
The RBI's decision to open up the sector for new players has been widely welcomed by the aspirants as well as independent experts and industry leaders.
"The new RBI Guidelines on the banking licenses have opened the doors to next-generation banks. The move not to bar any sector and tough Group exposure norms are steps in the right direction," said S Ravi, an eminent chartered accountant and independent director on various public companies.
"This will envisage the existing banks towards better performance which augurs well for the customers. RBI's emphasis on the track record of the promoters will go a long
way in establishing a stable and safe banking companies," he said.
At the end of last fiscal, India had a total of 173 commercial banks, which included 169 scheduled commercial banks and four non-scheduled commercial banks. Excluding the regional rural banks, there were 87 scheduled commercial banks in the country as on March 31, 2012. This included including about 27 from the public sector and 20 the domestic private sector banks.
As on March 31, 2012, a total of 41 foreign banks operating in India, while another 46 overseas banks had their respective representative offices in the country. In comparison, on lay 23 Indian banks had any overseas presence at the end of last fiscal.