How technology is changing the face of India’s banking sector

Global banks are transforming their business models to offer a digital-first experience to customers.

The past decade has witnessed a widespread acceptance of digital technologies. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, businesses across industries and verticals are turning to AI, ML, IoT, Big Data and other modern technologies to streamline their operations. When it comes to India, the government itself has taken a host of initiatives to promote large-scale adoption of technology in various sectors. The wave of digital disruption has affected several sectors such as manufacturing, retail, logistics, hospitality, travel, and even education. According to PwC’s report titled ‘Industry 4.0: Building the Digital Enterprise report’, nearly 39% of companies in India plan to invest 8% of their annual revenues in digital programs by 2021.

The report also estimated that the country would soon witness a mushrooming of true digital enterprises. Notwithstanding this progress, banking is one sector that still remains largely untouched by technology. While several public and private sector banks are digitizing their services, we have merely scratched the surface of what digitization can achieve. It becomes quite evident when compared to the banking landscape worldwide. Global banks are transforming their business models to offer a digital-first experience to customers. Moreover, consumers are getting acquainted with banks that are born digital. Taiwan’s O-Bank, for example, has no brick-and-mortar branches and provides its services through an app and a 24x7 video contact centre. The increasing reliance on technology is a clear indicator that the future of banking virtual.

Digitization of India’s banking sector: The shift from ‘conventional banking’ to ‘convenience banking’

The banking sector in India has experienced a radical shift in recent years and the very definition of banking has changed. In the past, net banking was limited to sending or receiving money. Typically, the process took a couple of days. Today, we have made much advancement in this area. Be it creating new accounts or applying for personal loans, digital banks have enabled consumers to avail banking services through a device that is conveniently placed in the palm of their hands. Some public-sector banks are even taking this digital transformation to a whole new level. In a recent statement, SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar said that the public sector bank is eyeing at the elimination of physical debit cards. He further stated that there will be a limited need to have plastic cards in the next 5 years. And, it’s not just the banks, NFBCs and small lenders are also taking the digital route to provide customers with a hassle-free, seamless experience.

The emergence and growth of FinTech in India

In addition to all this, India has also witnessed the emergence of numerous FinTech NFBCs. According to industry estimates, our country has emerged as the world’s second-largest FinTech hub, trailing only the US. Among other factors like rising smartphone ownership and deeper internet penetration, government support has played a pivotal role in driving the growth of the Indian FinTech sector. In the Union Budget 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that businesses with an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore will have to use government-backed digital payment platforms like Aadhaar Pay, NEFT, BHIM etc, and no extra charges will be imposed on either customers or merchants. However, in a country where cash continues to be the primary mode of transaction, government machinery alone can’t help the country to achieve its financial inclusion goals. This is where B2B companies come into the picture and can propel large-scale adoption of digital payments in the country.

The way ahead: Virtual banks are set to dominate the picture

Technology is poised to bring a major change to the banking sector. As such, artificial intelligence and various AI-backed applications (chatbots, robotics) have already started transforming the operational aspects and customer service aspects. As per a Juniper Research report, as many as 2 billion Indians will use digital banking by the end of this year. Despite the challenges like security threats, skepticism towards digital banking, lack of financial literacy and awareness, growing evidence thus reveals that digital banking is becoming the most preferred form of banking even in India.

-- Kumar Srinivasan, CEO, MatchMove Dynamic

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