Q. What were the learnings while transitioning from microfinance to formal banking?
It is good to anticipate possible challenges before they hit you. That will give you time to prepare and deal with challenges. Linked to this is the ability to understand ground realities and keeping in touch with customers. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses. My weakness was the lack of experience in formal banking, but the biggest strength, given my experience in microfinance, was the ability to reach and service customers whom banks tended to treat as risky. That customer segment has been a major contributor to our success. The success of a bank is about the success in its lending abilities and not in raising deposits. Today, Bandhan has 840 bank branches, 2,444 doorstep service centres, 1.1 crore customers and has mobilised `23,000 crore in deposits.
Q. How did you prepare for the transition?
We got experienced people and learnt from the bankers. It was an important time for us to transition from being a master in microcredit to being a student in formal banking. For me, the big learning was the whole issue of compliance. There is a huge transformation from microfinance to formal, full-scale banking. The other big learning has been in dealing with and the safe handling of public money.
Q. How do you still stay in touch with the field and ground staff?
The cycle of interaction may change. Instead of daily meetings, it may become monthly or quarterly, but they need to happen. One should never be detached from one's ground staff. I meet my staff in training centres, group meetings, on yearly picnics, or workshops and even at family functions.
Q. How challenging is the changing banking landscape - with small finance banks and payments banks coming up?
In a country of our size, this will not be a challenge. There is still lot of room to grow for all as many people still need easy access to financial services. ~