At final count, the Reserve Bank of India received 113 applications from aspirants to set up niche banks.

To be precise, the central bank received 72 applications for starting small finance banks and 41 for payment banks. The deadline for receipt of applications was February 2, 2015.

The central bank, in a statement, said the External Advisory Committees (EACs) for small finance banks and payments banks will be chaired by Usha Thorat, former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, and Dr. Nachiket Mor, Director, Central Board of the Reserve Bank, respectively.

On the one hand, the Reserve Bank of India has received applications from RIL, Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. On the other, there are virtually unheard of aspirants such as Village Financial Services from Kolkata and ItzCash of Mumbai.

In some cases, the opportunity has spawned interesting partnerships. For instance, RIL, India’s largest private sector company, said it will promote a payments bank in which the State Bank of India, India’s largest bank, will be a joint venture partner with an equity investment of up to 30 per cent.

Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd is in partnership with group company Idea Cellular Ltd. If selected, ABNL will hold 51 per cent equity in the payment bank called ‘Idea Payments Bank Limited’. ABNL failed to make the cut when it applied for a new bank licence in the private sector last year.

The Kishore Biyani-promoted Future Group too has applied for a payments bank licence. If the Group receives a licence then IDFC, which is in the midst of getting converted into a universal bank, may acquire a small equity stake in its payment bank.

Others who have applied for payments include Oxigen Services India Pvt Ltd, Paytm, Citrus Payments, Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Co, Telenor, Videocon Industries and Vakrangee Ltd.

As for small finance banks, there have been at least four applications — from SKS Microfinance, DHFL, IIFL Holdings Ltd (formerly India Infoline), and UAE Exchange.

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