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DBS bullish on India, plans 70 branches if given license

Singapore’s DBS bank is bullish on India and plans to open 70 branches if it gets license to set up a subsidiary in the country, a top official of the bank said today.
If given license, the bank can do well with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and transaction banking, said DBS Group chief executive officer Piyush Gupta.

“But it is not the end of the world if we don’t get it. We have already launched digital for retail and will do it for SMEs over the next several months,” said Gupta in an interview with Tabla!, a Friday weekly, largely read by the Indian community here.

“Our first two months of digital have gone well. We have got about 100,000 customers, which is not bad. But for it to really work, we need to scale it up,” said Gupta.

He also conceded that DBS has had its share of rough weather in India and had some credit exposure in the infrastructure and support sector. But the bank had recognised the problems early.

“For us, the bulk of the pain is behind us…I think in the next couple of years there may be an opportunity as we may be one of the few banks with the capital and willingness to invest in growth while the rest of the industry is still in cleaning up mode,” he said.

Gupta also feels that some of the reform agenda driven by the current Indian administration is under appreciated. States are now competing with each other while Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh are pushing ahead with land and labour reforms.

Compared to China, India has certain natural advantages, many of them a legacy from the British rule, noted Gupta, citing the rule of law and English language.

India had set up IITs and IIMs in the early years which has led to the formation and creation of India’s tech industry, said Gupta.

He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reviving entrepreneurship in the country which he says has gone largely unreported.

The 56-year old banker also felt that democracy, even though it is messy and slow, having it is good as it allows people to vent their aspirations on an ongoing basis.

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