relianceAnil Ambani’s Reliance Group company Reliance Money Infrastructure (RMIL) has signed a business correspondent deal with State Bank of India, reports The Hindu. The bank employee unions however, are not amused and are opposing the deal. The deal was concluded on February 25, but has reportedly been made effective retrospectively since October 5, 2013.

This deal is valid for a year from its execution and it will be auto-renewed for an additional year, if not terminated by either party. As part of the deal, Reliance Money will now identify borrowers, handle loan applications, promote credit groups, take up post-sanction monitoring, follow-up, and recovery. It will also collect small-value deposits, sell micro-insurance, mutual fund and pension products; and receive and deliver small-value remittances.

Business Correspondents essentially extends the mandate of banks to individual businesses through digital networks – they operate in the same way as ATM machines do, allowing users to open no-frill savings bank accounts, withdraw and deposit cash.

It will also apparently offer various type of loans like home loans, property loans, auto loans, gold loans, and SME loans among others. Apart from this, it will offer other banking services like general purpose credit card, kisan credit card, opening of current account and savings bank account (other than no-frill account), term deposit, recurring deposit, and mutual fund on a referral basis.

Reliance Capital Banking License: Interestingly, this deal comes when another group company Reliance Capital had unsuccessfully tried to secure a banking license. Earlier this week, Reliance Capital CEO Sam Ghosh had told Business Standard that they will now wait for new guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) before re-applying for a full banking licence.

Other business correspondents

The State Bank of India was among the first to experiment with this model, and it had signed similar deals with Eko Financial Services and telcos Airtel and BSNL. Airtel also has a Banking Correspondent tie-up with Axis Bank to offer a low-frills account called Airtel Money Super Account powered by Axis Bank.

Idea Cellular had also signed as a Business Correspondent for Axis Bank, way back in December 2010 and launched its financial inclusion platform Idea MyCash in March 2011. Last December, it had also received a five-year prepaid mobile wallet license from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), enabling them to offer mobile payment services to its subscribers.

Vodafone had also inked a deal with HDFC Bank in November 2011, allowing them to work as a business correspondent for the bank. This is however different from Vodafone’s m-Pesa since it was a bank-linked initiative and didn’t offer a prepaid wallet based payment system, as we had pointed out before.

Categories of banking correspondents allowed by the RBI in 2009.

– Individual kirana (grocery)/medical /fair price shop owners.
– Individual Public Call Office (PCO) operators.
– Agents of Small Savings schemes of Government of India/Insurance Companies.
– Individuals who own Petrol Pumps. – Retired teachers and.
– Authorised functionaries of well run Self Help Groups (SHGs) linked to banks.

With input from Vikas SN.