Despite rationale and a strong institutional credit network, India’s financial services ecosystem lags in terms of physical infrastructure and has failed to reach the poor, more than 19 percent of the population who are unbanked or financially excluded, noted a recent ASSOCHAM-EY joint study.
The main objective of financial inclusion is to ensure access to formal credit for people who depend on informal sources for fulfilling their financial needs, at an affordable cost in a fair and transparent manner, and to promote financial education, said the report titled, ‘Evolving landscape of microfinance institutions in India,’ the study says.
The Government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have made several concentrated efforts to promote financial inclusion. These efforts include launch of co-operative banks and regional rural banks, introduction of mandated priority sector lending targets, formation of self-help groups, appointment of business correspondents by banks to provide door-step delivery of banking services. These initiatives helped bring in a large section of the unbanked population under the formal financial credit system. However, a significant portion of India’s population still remains devoid of access to basic formal credit facilities mainly due to lack of last mile connectivity. Hence, the Government, with RBI’s support, continues to introduce various new initiatives to fulfil its objective of achieving 100 percent financial inclusion, reveals the study.
The Indian microfinance industry is dominated by Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Micro Finance Institutions,(MFIs) with an 88 percent market share. According to data from Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN), there are 12 small MFIs (loan book less than Rs 1 billion), another 22 medium-sized MFIs (loan book between Rs 1 billion and Rs 5 billion) and 22 large MFIs (loan book above Rs 5 billion). Large MFIs account for 90 percent of the industry’s gross loan portfolio (GLP), client base and debt funding.
During FY12–16, the gross loan portfolio (GLP) of MFIs grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48 percent to reach Rs 532.3 billion and the number of clients benefited crossed 32.5 million (as of March 2016). Notably, the sector reported a significant surge of 84 percent in GLP from Rs 289.4 billion in FY15 to Rs 532.3 billion in FY16, since MFIs indulged in issuing large loans to clients after the RBI relaxed indebted exposure to single borrower from Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000. The 60 percent of the GLP was attributed to the rural sector while the remaining 40 percent was from metros, urban and semi-urban areas (as of March 2016).
In terms of regional breakup, south India had the highest share at 35 percent of GLP followed by west and north India at 25 percent share each. The 31 percent of the loans were given for agriculture and allied activities while 64 percent were given for non agriculture and 5 percent for household finance as of March 2016. Large MFIs, some of which are in the process of converting to small finance banks, reported the highest surge in their loan books.
After 2010, MFIs consolidated their operations, since the sector faced more stringent regulatory requirements. Number of MFIs declined from 70 in pre-2010 to 55 in early-2017. Growth slowed after FY11 and in FY13, there was a decline in both branch network and employee base. However, following the initial consolidation, microfinance companies started aggressively expanding operations. From FY13 to FY16, branch network expanded at a CAGR of 16 percent while the employee base increased at a CAGR of 27 percent. Of the total base of 85,888 employees, 63 percent are loan officers who provide door-to-door credit as on March 2016.
During the past two years, MFIs have reported a 58 percent jump in average loan size per customer from Rs 10,364 in FY14 to Rs 16,394 in FY16, since during the same period gross loan portfolio has increased 3 times while client base has only increased 2 times. Some industry experts have ascertained the high growth pattern to the rise in clients, increase in general income levels and ease of lending rules by the RBI. In April 2015, the RBI raised the cap on indebtedness to a borrower from Rs 50, 000 to Rs 100,000. However, according to others, increased lending to same clients may be risky for MFIs, since they serve vulnerable segments, which entails increased underlying risk, highlighted the study.