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Review: A bank for the Buck

books Updated: Nov 19, 2012 16:29 IST
Dipankar Bhattacharyya
Dipankar Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
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A Bank For The Buck
Tamal BandyoPadhyay
Rs. 395 pp 343

Bankers in India have traditionally been a reticent tribe. It's partly to do with the social conditioning that looks warily upon the moneylender and partly with the government's decision to nationalise banks left over from the British colonial era. Manmohan Singh, as finance minister in 1991, got India to rethink how it ought to be banking. Bank for the Buck, the story of HDFC Bank and its dynamic boss Aditya Puri, celebrates not only Indian enterprise but also the environment that allowed it to flourish.

Tamal Bandopadhyay, a veteran financial journalist, captures the two decades that HDFC Bank has been in existence with a meticulous eye for the detail. The story is told through anecdote, right from the moment Deepak Parekh, chairman of the country's then lone mortgage company Housing Development Finance Corporation, put a call through to Kuala Lumpur to ask Puri to chuck his cushy Citibank job and set up a bank in India. It goes on to narrate the trials and tribulations Puri and his hand-picked team went through to create the country's most valued bank.

In the process, HDFC Bank upended the country's ossified approach to banking. Puri was at the scene when Indian households and companies were rediscovering their appetite for credit and his fresh approach to managing risk has now become part of industry standards.

Along with KV Kamath of ICICI Bank, a much bigger rival, Puri has proved Singh right by building institutions that will be around for a long time. The cult of the celebrity banker is here to stay.