• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Airtel Payments Bank: Fin inclusion, digital growth to drive payments bank momentum in India: Airtel Payments Bank CEO

Airtel Payments Bank CEO Anubrata Biswas is optimistic that the payments bank momentum in India will yield strong growth horizons and opportunities in the coming years, supported by financial inclusion imperatives and rapid pace of economic and digital growth. In an interview to PTI, Biswas said FY24 has been a “remarkable year” for Airtel Payments Bank, which has been growing in double digits across all key metrics such as users, revenue, and profits.

“We are still closing the books (for the fiscal) but as we stand today, we are going to see high double-digit growth rates on revenue, profit and users continue,” he said.

Airtel Payments Bank has nearly 500,000 banking points spread across the country, today.

It offers end-to-end digital banking solutions, along with a bouquet of digital financial services — insurance, lending, and investment solutions. Airtel Payments Bank has three clear segments when it comes to serving customers across geographies — the urban digital, the rural underbanked, and industries, and businesses.

Earlier this year, Airtel Payments Bank had cited a strong growth trajectory for the December 2023 quarter with revenues at Rs 469 crore, up 47 per cent year-on-year, while net profit stood at Rs 11 crore, up 120 per cent over the year-ago period.

Biswas asserted that the momentum on digital banking is here to stay. “We have sustained momentum on digital banking in India which is a growing spectrum of urban users wanting a secondary digital banking option for their payment and transaction needs. This is a business where we have seen dramatic surges over 3-6 months, which has driven up revenue…,” he said. Airtel Payments Bank is dominant in rural markets, he said, adding that “rural and urban combined, we are now opening a million bank accounts a month”.

“The momentum is structural which means we are very bullish about the next few years as well,” Biswas said.

Whether the pace of new account openings accelerated at the fag end of the fiscal in the backdrop of the recent Paytm Payments Bank crisis, he said while on B2B and rural side of the business, the momentum has broadly been the same, there has been a significant uptick and uplift on the digital side from urban customers.

The uptick has been “very significant” in the number of new customers applying online for opening bank accounts, and offerings like FASTag.

Consumers looking at digital banking options is itself a 100 million opportunity, he said.

“In India, digital payments has come, deepened and transformed the financial landscape. The time for digital banking has now come… people will use digital bank accounts to make payments, feel safe, and then look at many other second order needs,” he said.

Biswas said he is optimistic about the prospects of market growth in FY25 and for coming years.

“The digital banking opportunity, to our mind, is itself a 100 million user opportunity… the entire financial inclusion and digital inclusion market is actually a 500 million user opportunity… it will need several large banks with several different models because India is a large country, and it will need a variety of ways in which consumers will be served given India’s aspirations for a USD 7-trillion economy in the coming years, and the growth targets beyond,” he said.

So, while the banking momentum will remain strong, Biswas said, the payments bank momentum — given the unique positioning of it as a regulated fintech — is going to have “even stronger growth horizons and opportunities.”

“As consumers come to our platform and start using products and services, the opportunities remain for deepening both revenue as well as the user base itself, and equally on the rural consumer side. On the B2B side, we have just started… and there are a range of digital B2B opportunities, as well,” he said.

Digital India is accelerating at a faster clip than the GDP growth, he said, underlining that the ‘new Digital India’ will require new-age digital banks.

On the implications of the Reserve Bank of India’s crackdown on Paytm Payments Bank on the larger digital banking and fintech space, Biswas expressed confidence that the role of fintechs will become larger with time.

“Today, there are 400 million financial payers in India (including UPI payers and cash transactions), and 700 million smartphones… So there is a wide gap between digital users and digital financial users in the country and fintech has a role in bridging that gap.

“I am very optimistic about fintech, knowing that we, as a regulated fintech with a banking licence, can offer the best of both worlds to a billion Indians,” said the top boss of Airtel Payments Bank.

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