The Outperformers 2018

Hit Refresh

Aditya Puri is on a digital quest to transform the country’s biggest private lender

Photographs by Soumik Kar

The day is etched in Ashok Khanna’s memory. On March 28, 2012, Khanna, country head of secured loans (vehicles) at HDFC Bank, along with managing director Aditya Puri and the-then Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor KC Chakrabarty, were visiting Gudivada, the second-largest municipality in the coastal district of Krishna in Andhra Pradesh. The occasion was the 300th Grameen Loan Mahotsava, a retail loan fest that the bank had kicked off in 2010. Since that day also marked the bank crossing its 1 millionth rural loan, chief guest Chakrabarty was to hand over vehicle keys to successful applicants. There was palpable excitement among the crowd as they hadn’t witnessed loans being disbursed in such a fashion. Chakrabarty, known for his plain-speak and also the former CMD of Punjab National Bank, couldn’t contain his curiosity and asked one of the villagers: “Why did you take a loan from this bank?” The customer promptly replied, “No other bank was willing to offer a loan.” 

HDFC Branch Chakrabarty found that a bit strange considering that the coastal district was also home to well-entrenched state-owned banks, especially Andhra Bank. On being asked from whom he was taking loans earlier, the villager replied the usual practice was to borrow from moneylenders at 18-24% against the 11% rate that HDFC Bank was offering. “No other bank gave you a loan?” Chakrabarty queried again. “No” came the response. “How did they approach you?” asked Chakrabarty. “They came to our house offering loans,” replied the villager much to the surprise of Chakrabarty. Later, Khanna told the crowd in Telugu that if they wanted the bank to keep coming back to them, they also needed to ensure that payments are made in time. In fact, some officials of other banks who dropped by at the event even cautioned Khanna against the approach. “They told me, ‘You will regret this loan fest as they are not creditworthy.’ I replied, ‘It&rsqu

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