The RBI on Wednesday granted ‘in principle’ approval for payment banks to 11 entities, including big names like Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo and Tech Mahindra, as also Airtel and Vodafone.
What are they?
New stripped-down type of banks, which are expected to reach customers mainly through their mobile phones rather than traditional bank branches.
What they can and can’t do
-They can’t offer loans but can raise deposits of upto Rs. 1 lakh, and pay interest on these balances just like a savings bank account does.
-They can enable transfers and remittances through a mobile phone.
-They can offer services such as automatic payments of bills, and purchases in cashless, chequeless transactions through a phone.
-They can issue debit cards and ATM cards usable on ATM networks of all banks.
-They can transfer money directly to bank accounts at nearly no cost being a part of the gateway that connects banks.
-They can provide forex cards to travellers, usable again as a debit or ATM card all over India.
-They can offer forex services at charges lower than banks.
-They can also offer card acceptance mechanisms to third parties such as the ‘Apple Pay.’
Who has Reserve Bank granted in-principle approval to be a payment bank?
-Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd
-Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd
-Cholamandalam Distribution Services Ltd
-Department of Posts
-Fino PayTech Ltd
-National Securities Depository Ltd
-Reliance Industries Ltd
-Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi
-Vijay Shekhar Sharma
-Tech Mahindra Ltd
-Vodafone m-pesa Ltd
Why are they going to be a game-changer?
This is for the first time in the history of India's banking sector that RBI is giving out differentiated licences for specific activities. RBI is expected to come out with a second set of such licences — for small finance banks — and the process for those is in its final stage. The move is seen as a major step in pushing financial inclusion in the country.
It’s a step to redefine banking in India. The Reserve Bank expects payment banks to target India’s migrant labourers, low-income households and small businesses, offering savings accounts and remittance services with a low transaction cost. It hopes payments banks will enable poorer citizens who transact only in cash to take their first step into formal banking. It could be uneconomical for traditional banks to open branches in every village but the mobile phones coverage is a promising low-cost platform for quickly taking basic banking services to every rural citizen. The innovation is also expected to accelerate India’s journey into a cashless economy.
India’s domestic remittance market is estimated to be about Rs. 800-900 billion and growing. With money transfers made possible through mobile phones, a big chunk of it, especially that of the migrant labour, could shift to this new platform. Payment banks can also play a crucial role in implementing the government’s direct benefit transfer scheme, where subsidies on healthcare, education and gas are paid directly to beneficiaries’ accounts.
Also, this is the first time since banks were nationalized, that private sector business groups have bagged the RBI’s nod for banking services.
What has the experience been in other countries?
Payment technologies have proved hugely popular in other developing countries. In Kenya, the most cited success story, Vodafone’s M-Pesa is used by two in three of adults to store money, make purchases and transfer funds to friends and relatives.