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DBS understands the nuances of Indian market

DBS facilitates fund-raising from Singapore.

Niraj Mittal.

Interview: Niraj Mittal, head of DBS International Banking Group in India. Mittal says DBS understands the nuances of Indian market and facilitates fund-raising from Singapore. It is also in conversation with Indian groups for opportunities in Asia.

Q: Please give an overview of DBS’s operation in India?

Mittal: DBS is one of the largest foreign banks in India, operating over the entire spectrum of financial solutions in banking.

We are a universal bank and partner our clients in their funding needs (including long-term [both in Indian Rupee and foreign currency]), foreign exchange risk management space, and transaction banking. We have a deep understanding of the debt capital market space and work with our clients to raise long-term debt capital for them in the loan and bond space. Additionally, we not only cater to financial solutions for our chosen set of clients, but look to work with their entire ecosystem, both upstream (vendors) and downstream (dealers). With 12 branches spread across the major industrial hubs of the country, we are well-positioned to partner our clients in their growth story in the country.

Our deep and robust client base includes Public and State Units (PSUs) and several large corporate houses in India. As we break into the ecosystems of these clients, our franchise in the Small and Medium Enterprises as well as Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) space is also growing. Our consumer banking with a dedicated wealth management team to provide advisory services. Our mobile-only savings bank account, popularly known as digibank, reached a significant milestone of one million accounts in under 12 months.

We have also launched mortgage loans in our key markets and are seeing robust offtake. We also plan to provide end-to-end solutions to home buyers, starting with identification of a property and valuation assessment, up until funding is approved and the customer need is fulfilled.

Q: How deep is DBS’s expertise on the Indian market?

Mittal: DBS Bank has been in India for over two decades, with full-fledged business operations for the past 10 years. We understand the nuances of the market and have been successful in establishing a solid footprint in India. Several initiatives are underway and we expect significant growth in the coming years.

Q: India is set to confirm its position as the world’s best place to start manufacturing businesses with strong export links to the emerging markets – South Asian, African, LATAM. This is especially so as China is upgrading to higher value product manufacturing with rising labour costs and President Donald Trump reviving the American industry but at higher costs with protectionist measures. How do you see India from here on? Has India become “easy to do business” place for international investors?

Mittal: Various initiatives are being taken by Indian Government to ensure ease of business for foreign investors in the country. The insolvency and bankruptcy code, in particular, we believe will provide a major boost to foreign investors. Additionally, efforts have been made to institute an easier process of incorporation for companies and for reduction in the time for registration in the country. The government has also been working concertedly to ease tax laws and provide greater certainty to investors on this front.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is going to be a game-changer for companies who want to do business in India and Singapore and other international investors will benefit alike. Until now, the multiplicities of taxes have forced companies to build complex supply chains and systems to do business in the country. With the roll-out of GST, this will become streamlined and bring business in India closer to international standards. From an external perspective, this move rightly positions India as actually making a conscious effort to reach out to the source of business activity and will go a long way to portray it as an easy and consistent place to do business.

With the thrust on infrastructure, investors in India will get a boost to their business and reap the efficiencies that stem from better roads, ports, communication systems, access to power, etc.

Q: How is DBS positioning itself hence on to serve these foreign companies in India?

Mittal: DBS Bank India is uniquely positioned to serve Multi-National Corporation (MNC) investment in the country. Our MNC client base is large and increasing.

DBS’ full-service product proposition is aligned to the requirements of these large MNC clients and their ecosystems. Our presence across the Asian market helps us understand market dynamics and remain agile in rolling out new products ahead of competition. DBS’ competitive advantage lies in our strong regional customer franchise, in-depth cultural insights and strong banking expertise developed over four decades of doing business in Asia. This is why DBS is the banker of choice to many Asian companies in India.

India and Singapore remain very closely connected on the business front and we see a lot of interest from Singapore companies and investors in India. Some Singapore companies have already established themselves in India and have large business interests in the country. DBS is working closely with such companies to deliver to them a seamless banking experience as they grow and expand in India. We are also working closely with bodies like IE Singapore to provide financial solutions for companies that are expressing interest in India.

Q: How is DBS reaching out to MSMEs in India?

Mittal: SME business growth is a key strategic area and we are committed to build a strong SME banking proposition in India. DBS aims to provide a superior customer experience at every opportunity and across all its types of customers. Differentiated solutions and approach are the keys to DBS SME Banking in India. At the lower end, we are looking at a digital play that encompasses seamless on-boarding to straight-through fulfilment. Leveraging publicly-available data to build analytical solutions is the way forward for DBS in this space.

At the upper end, our key emphasis is distilling target-market-basis geographical economic clusters, value-chain banking and complement with deep industry understanding to be preferred business partner to our customer(s). Our endeavour is to become the banker of choice to the top customers in the focused target segment.

DBS offers a comprehensive range of product suites to SME customers. Our bouquet of offerings includes cash management, trade lines, hedging solutions and other working capital lines (both in Indian Rupee and foreign currency).

Over the last few years, DBS India has leveraged Group’s insights, technology platforms and relationships to gain a foothold in the SME segment. The bank has created a dedicated vertical to address the unique needs of SMEs. We have been continuously integrating learnings from this segment to refine our approach and design the correct solutions for customers. Our endeavour is to find the right client within the target segment and then position ourselves as the relevant operating bank in clients’ banking arrangements.

Q: How is DBS linking up Indian businesses with global businesses?

Mittal: As one of Asia’s leading banks, we understand the intricacies of the region’s markets, and provide a full range of services in consumer banking, wealth management and institutional banking. To continue staying at the forefront of the industry, we are reimagining banking, using digital technology and innovation to extend our reach, enhance our efficiencies and create tomorrow’s solutions. We are proud to be recognised not only as Asia’s Safest and Best Bank, but also World’s Best Digital Bank.

India is one of the fastest growing markets in Asia and as Asian companies are drawn to invest in India, and as Indian companies venture abroad, DBS being a bank with a pan-Asian footprint can play an important intermediation and advisory role to our customers. We leverage our Asian insights, Asian service and network and rich international experience to better cover the market.

Q: The Amaravati masterplan is a landmark achievement. Please comment on this project? What is DBS’ plans for such mega developments – project financing etc?

Mittal: A lot of work being done is to ensure successful execution of the plan. This will be a one-of-its-kind initiative, where the entire city is being developed from scratch. A lot of thought has gone into preparing the blueprint and is expected to set an example for future developments. DBS has been active in project financing across its key markets and has a dedicated project financing team where the expertise lies in identifying the feasibility of the project and the various risks associated with it. We are also targeting growth in this segment and we look forward to participate in such opportunities.

Q: Can you also list out opportunities, especially suitable for global investors and companies?

Mittal: There is a lot to be done on healthcare, education, roadways, ports, renewables etc., providing tremendous opportunities to investors. There is also significant scope in development of 98 smart cities where significant investment is required (investment of US$180 billion by 2020) and will range from setting up affordable homes to urban solutions and new railway corridors.

DBS: India-Singapore DBS

Q: Ever increasing number of Indian companies are setting up businesses in Singapore to go global or expand footprints. Singapore is an Asian headquarter for many of the heavyweight Indian companies. How is DBS doing in helping these companies to globalize or “Look East”?

Mittal: Being headquartered in Singapore, a pre-eminent global trade hub with an international focus at its core is clearly a major advantage. Furthermore, our unique contribution to Singapore, past, present and future, has shaped a bank with deep local roots and a pioneering regional and global perspective. This is a key focus area of DBS and we see that the companies looking to set up businesses in Singapore are given a seamless experience. We also have a dedicated India desk to facilitate fund-raising and other business segments that help identify potential business opportunities.

Q: Do you see Indian companies doing more than just trading, investing in assets through Singapore into the ASEAN region?

Mittal: As a first step to going global many Indian companies are increasingly eyeing opportunities to grow in the ASEAN region, given the scope it provides. Indian companies, for a long time, forayed into western markets, but a growing number of conversations are around ASEAN markets. With unmatched local knowledge and research, an Asia-focused, 15-country network, and enduring relationships with customers across borders, DBS helps its customers achieve their business goals through variety financial solutions. DBS is in conversation with some leading Indian groups about opportunities in Asia given its regional leadership and expertise.

Q: Do you see Indian companies marketing “Make in India” products through Singapore to ASEAN and global markets?

Mittal: With the ease of doing business with Singapore, the Indian companies are excited to explore tie-ups to ensure that they are able to expand their footprints to other countries.

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