Indian startup ecosystem is undergoing a major transformation as it converges with the traditional banking sector, generating considerable excitement in the nation's financial landscape. This shift has attracted the attention of venture capital firms (VCs) and private equity investors who are increasingly looking at investing in established banks. Wondering why startups and VCs are turning towards traditional banking in the Indian market?
Well, before we explore an answer to this crucial question, let's have a look at the major developments in the banking sector that set a clear example of this emerging trend.
Battle Royale: Who Will Secure Nainital Bank?
Interestingly, prominent players such as Premji Invest, Multiples, Zerodha, Gaja Capital, and MobiKwik have emerged as key contenders in assessing potential investments within Nainital Bank, a subsidiary of Bank of Baroda. Insider reports indicate that four consortia, each comprising up to 16 participants, are locked in fierce competition to gain control of this banking institution. This intense competition highlights the allure of the traditional banking sector for investors in India.
Lightspeed and Elevation: The New Players in Shivalik Bank's $100 Million Game
Reportedly, Lightspeed India Venture Partners and Elevation Capital have also entered the fray, exploring investment opportunities in Shivalik Small Finance Bank. This development follows the notable backing of Shivalik Bank by Accel and Quona the previous year, a move that garnered significant industry attention. While discussions surrounding the investment in Shivalik Bank have been relatively low-profile until now, sources suggest a valuation of just under $100 million for the bank. Investors interested in Shivalik Bank will be subject to ownership restrictions, capped at a maximum stake of 4.9% each, as per insider information.
Jupiter and Peak XV: Forging Fintech-Bank Alliances
Leading fintech startups like Jupiter, backed by Peak XV, are also venturing into the world of traditional bank investments. VCs view these investments as avenues for potential collaborations between their fintech portfolios and established banks. With many investors managing a diverse array of financial services startups, the potential for mutually beneficial partnerships is substantial. This collaboration is expected to drive significant revenue growth for traditional banks and fintech startups alike.
Slice Merger with North East Small Finance Bank
Obtaining a banking license or orchestrating a merger with an existing bank remains a relatively rare feat in the South Asian market due to evolving regulations and increased oversight. Regulators have also expressed concerns about the growing influence of tech giants in the financial services sector. Recent developments, including the Reserve Bank of India's approval for Bengaluru-based Slice to merge with North East Small Finance Bank, indicate a shift in the regulatory landscape.
RBI's Selective Choices: The Case of Sachin Bansal and BharatPe
Historically, the Reserve Bank of India has been selective in granting banking licenses, as evidenced by the rejection of Flipkart billionaire Sachin Bansal's application the previous year. Navi, owned by Bansal, subsequently sold its microfinancing unit for approximately $178.5 million. In 2021, the Reserve Bank of India issued a small finance bank license to a consortium comprising Centrum Financial Services and fintech BharatPe. However, this license primarily aimed to address capital shortages and issues arising from the PMC Bank scandal. BharatPe's involvement is expected to decrease in the coming years.
Let's analyse the factors driving this transition.
Why Startups & VCs Are Turning Towards Traditional Banking?
- Limited Banking Licenses: India has a scarcity of banking licenses, making them valuable commodities. Startups and VCs are drawn to traditional banking as it offers a rare opportunity to enter a highly regulated sector with significant barriers to entry.
- Synergies and Collaborations: Traditional banks and fintech startups can leverage each other's strengths. VCs see potential collaborations that can drive innovation and growth, allowing startups to offer new financial services and expand their customer base.
- Reduced Capital Acquisition Costs: By investing in established banks, startups and VCs can tap into existing infrastructure and customer bases, saving them the high initial costs of building a bank from scratch.
- Competitive Landscape: The competitive nature of the Indian startup ecosystem drives startups and VCs to explore banking investments. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) plays a role as they observe peers entering the sector.
- Regulatory Challenges: Obtaining a banking license in India is a complex process. However, with recent regulatory shifts and approvals, startups and VCs are seeing a more favorable environment for investments in traditional banking.
The convergence of startups and venture capital with traditional banking in India represents a significant shift in the nation's financial landscape. The allure of limited banking licenses, potential synergies between fintech and traditional banking, and evolving regulatory dynamics are driving this trend. Startups and VCs are turning towards traditional banking in India because of the rare opportunities it presents for growth and diversification in a highly competitive market. As this trend continues to unfold, it promises to reshape the Indian financial ecosystem in exciting and unexpected ways.