The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday announced much-awaited guidelines for new private banks to be set up in the country, slapping a caveat that at least a fourth of their branches must be in unbanked rural area and proposing stringent capital requirements to make sure only serious players step in.
Industry leaders welcomed the regime to award new licences that would help the government bring in foreign capital while trying to boost its policy of financial inclusion that covers remote areas.
"I think with all going well, with all clearances, by end of the financial year (2013-14) we will see some success (in new bank licences)," Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Takru told reporters.
RBI said private sector, public sector and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) can all float banks subject to rules.
"Groups should have a past record of sound credentials and integrity, be financially sound with a successful track record of 10 years."
Groups or companies eying bank licences include L&T, Aditya Birla Financial Services, Tata Capital, Bajaj Finserv, Religare Enterprises, Mahindra and Mahindr and Reliance Capital.
The last time new banks were allowed was in 2002-03 when two licences were issued to Yes Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank. Ten players were allowed in the mid-1990s, including ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.
"We welcome the RBI banking guidelines, they are forward looking and Reliance Capital will be interested in applying for banking licence," Sam Ghosh, CEO, Reliance Capital said.