Often credited as the person who brought scale to Indian retail banking, KV Kamath, through ICICI Bank, has changed the way Indians bank. Kamath took retail lending to the doorsteps of the Indian household, leading to a boom in demand for consumer durables, realty and automobiles. He could well be the father of India’s EMI culture.
At a time when state run banks were very conservative and strict in their lending practices, Kamath saw and exploited the opportunity of providing easy access to loans. While branding the bank and entering new segments, Kamath, within three years of its entry into the retail finance, turned ICICI Bank into a market leader in retail credit in 2003.
His strongest ally in this transformation from a financial institution to a bank: technology. Technology has been ICICI Bank’s biggest growth and profits lever, through which Kamath introduced internet banking to the country and expanded the concept of automated teller machine (ATM) and tele-banking.
The bank also has firsts in 100 per cent core banking solution at all its branches and also to the 8 to 8 banking concept (8AM to 8 PM).
Universal banking was Kamath’s other major tool to expand beyond banking, as it moved into asset management, brokerage and insurance businesses, once again, becoming one of the leading players there. Through ICICI Securities, Kamath brought stock trading to the individual’s personal computer, forcing many broking firms to follow.
Kamath also focused on expanding the bank’s wings globally. The journey began in 2003, when the bank opened its representative offices in Singaore, Dubai, China, UK and Canada. Since then, it has grown and the bank as of today is the leader in money remittance from abroad.
With 29 years at ICICI Bank behind him, a dozen of them at the helm, this IIM Ahmedabad graduate was conferred with a trail of awards including the Padma Bhushan (one of the highest civilian honours in the country) in 2008 and Businessman of the Year by Forbes Asia in the previous year.
But along with reaching this leadership across all segments of finance came complaints, with the bank constantly in the news for customer harassment, leading to the courts fining the company repeatedly.