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Meet the Small Finance Bank and Payments Banks' aspirants

From a newspaper editor to former bankers and Tech CFOs, the individual applicants for the banks are a bunch of enthusiastic investors who want to make the best of the opportunity thrown open by RBI

BS Reporters 

(pic: Saggere Radhakrishna)

Kiran Thakur: An Editor and a banker

Kiran D Thakur, 62, is the Editor of Marathi daily Tarun Bharat, published from Belagavi in Karnataka and other centres in Maharashtra. Recently, he has applied for small bank licence from the RBI.

Thakur shot into fame two years ago when he was summoned by the Speaker of Karnataka Legislative Assembly for breaching privilege of two members of the house. Though he was found guilty, he was let off by the assembly after he tendered public apology.

Thakur started his career as a sports reporter in 1968 and took over as its editor in 1979. He transformed the Marathi daily from a single location publication to multi-city editions. The daily is now published from Belagavi, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Goa. He also launched ‘Newslink’, an English daily in 1987.

Thakur has also established his name in the field of education and cooperative movement and is a very active member of Belgaum Jilha Prathamik Shikshan Samitee which runs schools and colleges and is a member of Indira Gandhi Open University Centre, Belgaum among others.

But Thakur's love for banking started after he set up Lokmanya Multi-purpose Co-op Society, which is said to be India’s first multi-state, multi-purpose cooperative financial institution. The society has 169 branches and a deposit base in excess of Rs 1,800 crore.

The society offers deposits and loan facilities like housing loan, hypothecation loan, mortgage loan, industrial loan and personal loan. It also acts as distribution agent for general and life insurance companies.

Mahesh Kulkarni

Collin Timms: Banker with a vision

Collin Timms, an applicant for a small bank licence, is confident of securing a niche banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India. That's because Timms already runs a co-operative bank-Guardian Bank in Bangalore and a micro-institution called - Opportunity Microfinance Institution. Both the financial institutions put together have an equity capital of Rs 106 crore and are in operation for the last 15 years. The additional capital that will be required for the small finance bank will be brought in by the existing shareholders of the two entities.

"We have been working in the area of lending for a long time now and we have the required expertise. A small finance bank will give us an opportunity to operate on a national footprint. It will help us to continue with the work that we are doing but on a much larger scale and will allow us to expand into other geographies," said Timms.

Timms believes that he has made a good case to the RBI by highlighting his work on financial inclusion as a bank and a micro-finance lender.

"The RBI's idea behind these niche banking licence is to further financial inclusion. We believe that we have a good chance to get the licence as we have already been doing similar work. We can take the resources and learning from our existing operations and can convert it into a small finance banks," he added. As per the financial statement, the profit after tax of Guardian Bank at the end of March 31st 2014 was Rs 1,38,59,943.

Nupur Anand

K Cherian Varghese: Gearing up for second innings

For a person who vetted plans to salvage sick units in his last assignment as chairman of reconstruction agency, thinking to start a new small finance bank, could seem to be quite a challenge. That could be “out of world thought” for those wishing quiet post-retirement life but definitely not for soft-spoken K Cherian Varghese, former CMD of Union Bank of India and Corporation Bank

Doing something new at this age is hardly a new thing for commercial banker with over three decades of experience under his wings. He pursued his academic interest after retirement and received his doctorate in Business Policy and Administration from Mumbai University in 2011.

Starting his career as banker in 1970 with Indian Bank, he gathered rich experience and insights while working on assignments in priority sector, merchant banking and foreign exchange. Besides heading two public sector – Corporation Bank and Union Bank of India, two restructuring assignment (almost giving lease of life) – to will stand in good stead for nurturing a baby. One of those assignment involved resurrecting bank in Indonesia and another was rebuilding South Indian Bank.

Summing up thoughts behind small finance bank, Varghese says he will like to put his experience to use for social change. While giving services to people in is sustainable manner, the enterprise should recover costs and generate surplus. Being person born and brought up in a small village in Kerela, Varghese knows what are the requirements of people.

But when asked about his business plans, Varghese prefers to say less. “At present it is between me and the Reserve Bank of India. So I should not be talking about it.” The capital, he says, will follow.

Abhijit Lele

V Balakrishnan
V Balakrishnan: CFOs turn bankers

It’s perhaps for the first time when three former chief financial officers (CFOs) of two large technology companies are joining hands to launch a bank, which they want to position way different from the that are already operational in the country.

The three veteran finance professionals -- V Balakrishnan, a former chief financial officer of Infosys, Suresh Senapaty, the CFO of India’s third largest IT services company Wipro who is set to retire from the company in April this year and T V Mohandas Pai, also a former CFO of Infosys and now the chairman of Manipal Education – have joined hands with a company owned by Kolkata-based engineering and consulting company Dastur & Co. They have applied the Reserve Bank of India to start a small bank with an initial capital requirement of Rs 100 crore. While three of them together would contribute half of the overall funding requirement, Dastur & Co will bring in the rest.

“Technology is changing all the industries and we believe that banking industry is also ripe to take part in this technology transformation. The idea is to start a technology-driven bank with less physical branches and people. It will be similar like virtual bank but with much lesser physical touch points. We want to really make a differentiation in the banking industry; that’s the idea,” said Balakrishnan who is also a co-founder and chairman of the Exfinity venture capital fund.

Balakrishnan said the proposed banks will have its headquarters in Bengaluru. “Once approved by the RBI, after a gap of over 100 years, Bengaluru will see the emergence of a new bank with headquarters in the city,” he added.

Balakrishnan, Pai and Senapaty, all certified chartered accountants, have put together have over six decades of experience in the financial domain.

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra

Vinod Jain: CA to a banker

One of the surprises among names that applied for small finance banks is a Chartered accountant from Delhi -- Vinod Jain. Jain, who started as a CA, in a small office in Nehru Place, a commercial complex in south Delhi, which is well-known for pirated software and assembling of computers, has applied for small finance bank.

Jain now heads INMACS Ltd. (Member NSE/DP) and INMACS Management Services Ltd. which has a office in Gurgaon with about 100 people working in it. While the low key Jain’s emergence in race for license may have surprised many, people in the CA community were pretty much expecting it as Jain is known to keep his cards close to his heart and make surprises often.

It is still not clear on how many investors Jain— a former member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India Council, the apex decision making body for the profession — might rope in provided he gets the nod from the banking regulator but it is also learnt a sizable investment could come from Jain’s own assets.

Jain-led INMACS is known for providing services such as consulting and auditing. It also has an arm providing capital market services. INMACS is SEBI registered Category IV Merchant Banker provides not only IPO advisory services but offers a wide array of financial services like arrangement of term loan(s) at competitive terms, working capital facilities, foreign currency loans from overseas banks/financial institutions and so on. Jain did not respond to calls made by Business Standard.

Digbijay Mishra

Manish Khera: Setting a new bar

After heading a company working on financial inclusion, a dream to build a small finance bank seems natural extension for Manish Khera, a former banker.

Khera, who started his career with ICICI Bank, became CEO of Financial Inclusion Network & Operations Ltd (FINO) in 2006. FINO is developing low cost platform to extend banking services in under-banked had become important as government and regulator begun push for financial services.

He quit FINO in December 2013 to strike out on his own in the financial inclusion space and set up a technology company called, YTS Solutions Pvt Ltd to develop and deploy mobile based prepaid payment solutions for operators and financial institutions.

Khera has teamed up with financial sector professionals for a small finance bank license. The entity, to be named 1st Small Finance Bank, will have an initial capital base of Rs 150 crore and will primarily focus on underserved regions in central India.

Abhijit Lele

Ajay Singh Bimbhet: Cashing in on new opportunities

Ajay Singh Bimbhet is managing director at Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company since 2007. Prior to this, he was managing director and head, private and business clients at Deutsche Bank. He has about three decades of retail banking experience with majors such as ANZ Grindlays, Standard Chartered Bank, IDBI Bank. Earlier, at IDBI Bank, he was acting CEO and Country Head - Retail Banking. Ajay completed his Post-Graduation from the Delhi School of Economics in 1976.

He has applied for Small Finance Banks licence along with some other partners. When reached, he declined to share his plans for the venture.

Abhineet Kumar

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First Published: Tue, February 24 2015. 14:50 IST