Chennai: Standard Chartered Bank is planning to fund the fruit processing sector projects in Jammu and Kashmir. To start with, the bank has chosen to fund the apple industry in the state, based on a detailed study in Kolkata covering the apple farm gate in Anantnag to the diner's palate.
"We now know to the last paise as to who gets how much from the farmers place to the end customer. Over 70 per cent of the end price is made up of wastage and non value- added expenses like the middlemen commission," says Bala Swaminathan, regional head, client relationships, wholesale banking, India and South Asia.
According to Swaminathan, farmers would gain a lot if wastage and middlemen were eliminated. Towards that, the bank is planning to invite entrepreneurs to set up cold storages, apple processing plants and operate refer (refrigerated) trucks. Swaminathan is hoping to meet J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad shortly and other senior officials. "The bank hopes to roll out its agricultural lending foray in 2006 and expand the portfolio in 2007."
The banks agricultural lending strategy is drawn on the premise that corporatisation of agriculture will happen in one form or other. There are gaps to be filled in the agri chain - from the farm gate to the dinner plate - that the bank could help fill.
Meanwhile the bank is expanding its retail reach in India through its non-banking finance company (NBFC) Standard Chartered Investments and Loans (India) Limited (SCILL) and direct sales agent (DSA) network.
According to Neeraj Swaroop, chief executive - India, Standard Chartered Bank, the balance sheet size of SCILL is around Rs3,000 crore and has 16 branches. "There are plans to open more branches. The company is used as the distribution vehicle for the bank's retail products as well as well as wholesale products."
On its own the bank has 81 branches in 31 cities in India. In the consumer banking space, the bank is active in the lucrative unsecured credit business like the credit card and the personal loan segments. It also does good business in wealth management, insurance-life and non life- and trading in loan portfolios.
However, the bank is betting big on the cross border merger and acquisition (M&A) segment. "We operate in 56 countries with business relationship with major industrial groups. Compared to other Indian banks, we know the corporates in India and in other countries which will be helpful in concluding merger and acquisition deals," says Swaminathan.
Adds Sundeep Bhandari, regional head, global markets, South Asia, "We also manage the forex markets in consultation with the central bank and other banks to avoid fluctuations due to heavy inflow of dollars when a foreign company buys out an Indian outfit."
According to Swaminathan, the cross border M&A scene is hotting up with Indian companies going in for acquisitions overseas. "IT, pharma, auto components, beverages, oil drilling and refining are the areas where Indian companies are looking out for buys overseas. On the other hand foreign companies are looking out for good buys in the cement, real estate, telecom and ITES segments in India."
He claims the bank to be the leader in the M&A segment.