Bandhan Financial Services, the first microfinance institution in the country to win a bank licence, may hire a consultancy firm for drawing a blueprint for setting up a commercial bank. "Presently, the internal team is working out the nitty gritty as to how many branches are to be opened in the beginning, finalising locations and so on," Bandhan Financial Services Chairman and Managing Director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh told PTI. "If need be we may engage a consultancy firm for help. But at the moment we are doing on our own," he said. Matter related to whether to hire consultant or not will be taken up in board meeting soon, he added. Last year, the microfinane institution had roped in consultancy firm Deloitte to help it apply for bank licence. The NBFC will pool some of the existing employees which is about 13,000 and some would be hired to start banking operation within the 18-month period given by RBI, he said. Of the 2,016 branches at present, 70 per cent are in the rural belt, Ghosh said, adding that some of them would be restructured. He said, as of now there are 55 lakh customers under the micro-finance fold and they would be first customers of the bank. NBFC would be converted into a bank, the model chosen by the other licensee IDFC. RBI last week granted "in-principle" approval for banking licences to infrastructure financing firm IDFC and Bandhan from among 25 applicants, including corporate heavyweights ADAG Group, Aditya Birla Group and Bajaj Group. Set up in 2001 by Ghosh, Kolkata-based Bandhan began with a focus on working with socially disadvantaged and economically exploited women. It disbursed Rs 963 crore of loans in February and has total loans outstanding of Rs 5,704 crore. The International Finance Corporation, the investment arm of the World Bank, picked up about 11 per cent stake in Bandhan for nearly Rs 135 crore in 2011.
The only other institutional investor in Bandhan is Sidbi, which holds 10 per cent stake. Bandhan has loan schemes such as Samriddhi for the MSME sector and Sushiksha for education, among others. It also runs the Bandhan School of Development Management.