Thursday 6th September, 2007

 

About the Bank of Baroda

 
 
 
 
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Kishor Kharat

Bank of Baroda started its overseas journey by opening its first branch way back in 1953 in Mombassa, Kenya. Since then the bank has come a long way in expanding its international network to serve NRIs/PIOs and locals.

Today, it has transformed into India’s international bank.

It has significant international presence with a network of 63 offices in 21 countries including 43 branches of the bank, 17 branches of its six subsidiaries and three representative offices in Malaysia, China and Thailand. The bank also has one joint venture in Zambia with nine branches.

The bank has presence in world’s major financial centres, that is, New York, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Brussels and Singapore.

Bank of Baroda is further in the process of identifying/opening more overseas centres for increasing its global presence to serve its 29 million global customers in still better way.

The bank has recently upgraded its operations in Hong Kong on April 2, and now offers full banking service through its two branches at Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. It would also be upgrading its operations to full banking service in China and through JV in Malaysia shortly.

The bank, which has received approval to open operations in T&T, has similar intentions for Australia and Ghana for which permission /in principle approvals from host country regulators have been received.

It is also in process of establishing offices in Canada, New Zealand, Isle of Man, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Mozambique, Russia. It also has plans to extend its reach in existing countries of operations in United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Botswana.

Indian banking powerhouse hopes to spice up financial sector

T&T welcomes Bank of Baroda

Kishor Kharat, managing director of the Bank of Baroda (T&T). Photos: Shirley Bahadur

BY ASHA JAVEED

In a country where banks are like affiliations, India’s Bank of Baroda will attempt conversion.

It intends to open offices at Furness Building, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, in October. Some of the services it’s considering offering is: 12-, even 24-hour banking, real time transfer of funds from one continent to another and financing of agriculture projects.

And it’s not daunted by the giants in the local financial market.

The robust industry already boasts of four major commercial banks—First Citizens, Scotiabank, RBTT, Republic—and several corporate based institutions: Citibank, AIC Financial, Intercommercial and FirstCaribbean.

Instead, Baroda is hoping to combine its 100 years of banking experience in more than 21 countries, as a way to propel the industry into maturity.

“While the industry is vibrant, it is not mature. There is still tremendous scope to develop,” said Kishor Kharat, managing director of the Bank of Baroda (T&T), in an interview with the Business Guardian at his temporary offices at Nelco Properties on Edward Street, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday.

“The banks are not coming forward to give certain services or handle certain types of projects. How then can it be mature? There is no risk. We intend to take that risk and intend to force growth and help with the mature process.

“The industry is classified just as the country…developing,” said Kharat.

Baroda received a provisional licence from the Central Bank in February and is expecting its final licence by month end. With this limitation, there was only so much information Kharat could divulge, but promised that more will be revealed closer to the launch.

He said T&T was one of four locations that the company was setting up shop to have a global presence in five continents.

The other countries are:

n Australia

n Bahrain

n Ghana

It also intends to expand operations to Canada, Japan, France and Houston, USA.

He said 35 per cent of the bank’s profits come from its international operations of just 60 branches.

Baroda’s interest was first expressed by former Indian High Commissioner, Virendra Gupta, as a way to increase trade between the two countries. And while Indian trade fairs and concerts featuring Indian artists are popular, the bank will be a footprint that cements the relationship.

Two factors that contributed to their interest in setting up shop in T&T were the economy’s growth and its growth potential and as well as a stable government. These two factors, he pointed out, bode well for new businesses and a demand on the financial services available.

Baroda will offer full-fledged banking services complete with ATMs and it will be successful, predicted Kharat.

“The secrets to our success is to tap into areas which are now untapped by the present market. These untapped segments are what we will be looking at as our business strategy.”

Kharat has had 30 years of banking service with Baroda and was setting up its operations in Australia when he was asked to set up the T&T base.

He recalled he was in India when Minister of Trade and Industry, Ken Valley, visited the country with a business delegation and handed over the provisional licence.

“Then I was a bit disappointed, but Trinidad is a place where there is a lot of absorption capacity. What I mean, is that it is easy to get into the culture.”

While the company has encountered challenges, it is what Kharat described as “encouraging challenges.”

“We are keeping ourselves at pace with development.”

Baroda will begin operations with $50 million with the focus on middle-income group and small businesses.

“If services grow, we will have to bring in more capital in the short term. I already realise that I will need to bring in more capital.

“We will start with expatriates at the senior level and have already employed some people at all levels. Our intention is to gradually have locals at all seniors positions.”

In surveying the local financial landscape, Kharat believes there is still room for growth of such supportive services as foreign direct investment and foreign institution investment.

He said Trinidad’s most immediate challenge was its manpower issue.

“All projects are suffering because there is a lack of manpower to meet deadlines. In my own circumstance, we were supposed to have the building in Furness ready by mid-June, now it has been pushed back to October. All growth will be in the red.”

Asked what aspect of banking he enjoyed the most, he paused, then explained that he could not give a partial opinion.

“My flair is for credit.

“When I worked in the rural areas, I would enjoy going to the fields, and when I worked in the urban areas, I would get involved in the city life. Wherever I go, I get fascinated with places.”

Waxing philosophical on banking, he is confident about the sustainability of Baroda in the marketplace.

“All banks are established with limited population to attract them. The difference is in the delivery of service and the types of services. Banking cannot be mushroomed unless you have a lot of products.”

Kharat is aware it will take Baroda time to make its mark, but is confident of the image it now has in the market.

“When I look at the population, I understand that most are immigrants from other areas. They are all descendents from other countries and have formed a unity in diversity. What Baroda has is an international presence in many markets and we will be able to utilise our knowledge of all these markets to help serve the needs of our customers.

“I am looking forward to our operations, We have a really good opportunity.”

One of the first undertaking when he reached Trinidad was to meet with the chief executives of the different banks.

“We wanted to establish ourselves a friend. We are not a competitor. We just want to enjoy the business.”

 

 

 

 

 

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