Monday, 15 July 2019

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s HDFC Bank 2.0 book narrates the Puri legacy.


Tamal Bandyopadhyay book Aditya Puri


Indian banking industry is not in the pink of health now but that’s largely the story of the government-owned banks. If we look at the private sector, barring a few odd banks which are not the best examples of corporate governance, over the last three decades, the industry has witnessed phenomenal growth with consumerism. The privitisation push in 1991 was a defining moment for the financial sector in India. What we have achieved today would not have been possible without India’s private sector banks like HDFC Bank. It is a child of economic liberalisation.

In the 1990’s, talking about banks as dinosaurs, Bill Gates of Microsoft famously said, “We need banking, but we don’t need banks anymore”. Three decades later, a bank is still relevant and will continue to do so if it’s willing to reinvent itself to be in sync with the changing milieu where it operates – by embracing digitalisation.

From a nimble start-up in 1995 to India’s most valuable banking brand, HDFC Bank has a made  gigantic strides into the world of digital banking under the leadership of Mr Aditya Puri. In a sector marred by controversies, Mr Puri has not just been the longest serving chairman of any bank globally but the face of a world class bank in India. Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s latest book “HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital” narrates this unique story of the  transformation of India’s most valued lender from a life cycle bank to a lifestyle bank. 

For starters, let me remind you that this book is not a sponsored project. It chronicles the HDFC Bank story warts and all. While highlighting the bank’s unique features, Tamal also criticises the unforgivable mistakes done by HDFC Bank during this journey through his unparalleled  writing skills. 

One of the key reasons why Indian banks were largely unaffected  during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009 was the fact that they were truly connected with their roots. During that  period, Mr Puri had guided HDFC Bank to add branches and ATM network in tier three cities and rural areas. The expansion drive created the credit card, auto and home loan boom. The book describes how  a bank reaching out to person for a loan – and not  the other way round - creates a new sense of trust in the aspirational class of India.

The era of Digital Disruption

Mr Puri believes that digitalisation and disruption are intertwined. Whenever there’s change, people tend to panic but if handled correctly, it can open up new beginnings. HDFC Bank saw this transformation ahead of others. During his Silicon Valley trip in 2014, Mr Puri saw how the fintech companies – the new kids on the  tech block – were venturing into fund transfers, mobile banking and shopping. They could build products that could give instant loan with slick user interface on their phones. Home grown fintech innovations like the United Payments Interface (UPI) were set to transform the way we Indians bank.

“Why don’t we disrupt ourselves instead of waiting to be disrupted by fintech companies? Why can’t we give a loan in 10 seconds? Why can’t we invent something to transfer money in just a click? HDFC Bank aspires to become a financial marketplace. It wants to be India’s Alibaba or Netflix when it comes to banking”. - Mr Aditya Puri, Chairman & Managing Director, HDFC Bank.

HDFC Bank first tied up with Chillr, an app which sends money over the phone using a UPI technology. A BharatQR code-based payments service named PayZapp is popular in many stores. The bank has also used AI for many applications like chatbots and social media interactions. Indigenously developed IRA robots have been deployed at several branches to solve customer queries. 

While adopting this technological shift, there were times when the bank failed on the customer front. For instance, the HDFC bank app crash in November 2018 became a hot topic in the media and  the bank was subjected to national outrage and ridicule. The book – “HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital” – clinically  chronicles the journey over the years.

About the book

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital is published by Jaico Publishing House. The book was launched by Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, State Bank of India at Nehru Centre, Mumbai. Aditya Puri, Managing Director, HDFC Bank Ltd  and many  luminaries in the financial services industry were present there. Tamal Bandyopadhyay is an author, columnist and keen watcher of banking and finance. His Banker’s Trust column, which now appears every Monday in Business Standard, is the most popular column on banking and finance with over half a million followers on the Linkedin platform.

“Tamal combines his financial knowledge, eye for detail, and an excellent storytelling style to create a vivid portrait of India’s most valued bank and its path to future” - Nandan Nilekani, Co-foundar & Chairman, Infosys & founding chairman of UIDAI, has written in his forward to the book.

HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital (ISBN: 978-93-88423-35-9) are now available at Crossword, Amazon, Flipkart and other leading book stores.

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