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History of Banking in India - Year by Year Breakdown

September 4, 2023

Table of Contents

    Table of Contents

      The Bank of Hindustan, established in 1770 was one of the origins of banking in India. Learn more about the History of Banking in India and the progress achieved post -Independence

      India's banking industry was significantly affected by the transformational course the country took after independence.

      The nationalisation push, the founding of banks before independence, the history of banking in India, and the ensuing repercussions on India's economy are some of the noteworthy milestones that this article highlights as it goes into the numerous periods that reflect this history.

      Certainly, here are some of the national banks that were established in India before its independence in 1947 marking the origin of banking in India:

      Banks Established in India Pre - Independence

      • Bank of Hindustan (1770): Established in 1770, the Bank of Hindustan was one of the origin of banking in India. The bank faced various financial challenges and ultimately closed its operations in the mid-19th century.

      • General Bank of India (1786): Founded in 1786, the General Bank of India was one of the earliest joint-stock banks in India. It operated mainly in Bengal and Bombay and provided banking and financial services to British colonial officials and merchants.

      • Bank of Bombay (1840), Bank of Madras (1843), and Bank of Bengal (1806): These three banks were established as part of the Presidencies of British India. These banks were known as the 'Presidency Banks' and served as major financial institutions under British rule.

      • Allahabad Bank (1865): Founded in Allahabad in 1865 by a group of Europeans, Allahabad Bank was one of the oldest joint-stock banks in India. It played a significant role in promoting trade and commerce during the colonial period.

      • Punjab National Bank (1894): Established in Lahore, Punjab National Bank was founded in 1894 by Lala Lajpat Rai and others. It started as a regional bank serving primarily the northern region of India and later became one of the major nationalised banks in India after independence.

      • Canara Bank (1906): Founded in Mangalore in 1906, Canara Bank initially operated as a private bank. It later became a nationalised bank in 1969.

      • Bank of Baroda (1908): Founded in 1908 in Baroda (now Vadodara), the Bank of Baroda was originally a private bank. It gained national importance after its nationalisation in 1969.

      • Central Bank of India (1911): The Central Bank of India was established in 1911 as the first commercial bank of India to be wholly owned and managed by Indians. It played a crucial role in the Swadeshi Movement and the promotion of indigenous banking.

      These banks, along with others, laid the foundation for evolution of the banking system in India.

      Many of them were later nationalized or merged with other banks to form the framework of India's post-independence banking structure.

      Post-Independence Periods in the History of Banking in India

      1. The early post-independence period (1947–1969)

      India's banking industry underwent significant adjustments in the years following independence in 1947.

      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was given more authority to oversee and regulate the banking system.

      During this time, improving the banking infrastructure and ensuring stability received a lot of attention. 

      2. Nationalisation and Expansion (1969-1991)

      The government's nationalisation campaign of 14 significant private banks in 1969 was a watershed moment in Indian banking history.

      This action was taken to promote equitable economic growth, increase financial inclusion, and lessen inequities.

      As a result, the vast majority of the populace now has access to banking services, which represents a significant shift in India's banking environment.

      3. Globalization and Liberalization (Since 1991)

      A new era of economic reforms began in the 1990s with a shift towards globalisation and liberalisation.

      During this time, there were advances in technology, the introduction of foreign institutions, and novel financial products.

      The emphasis switched to market-driven regulations that promote competition, effectiveness, and client-centred services. 

      Nationalization of Banks in India

      Indian banks were nationalised in two phases – first in 1969 and then in 1980, rather than 1991. The nationalisation of banks in India was a significant policy move undertaken by the Indian government to address various socio-economic and developmental challenges.

      Reasons for Nationalization:

      1. Promotion of Financial Inclusion: Before nationalisation, the Indian banking sector was dominated by a few private banks that primarily catered to urban and industrial areas.

      The rural and unbanked population had limited access to banking services.

      Nationalisation aimed to spread banking services to all regions of the country, ensuring financial inclusion and reducing regional imbalances.

      2. Control over Capital: Private banks were often seen as catering to the interests of a few industrial and business elites.

      Nationalisation was an attempt to ensure that banking resources were used for the broader public welfare rather than being concentrated in the hands of a few influential individuals.

      3. Priority Sector Lending: The government wanted to channel credit towards priority sectors such as agriculture, small-scale industries, and weaker sections of society.

      Nationalised banks were expected to align their lending practices with national development goals.

      4. Stability and Regulation: Nationalization aimed to bring stability to the financial system by reducing the risk of bank failures and panics.

      The government could exercise greater regulatory control over nationalised banks to ensure prudent banking practices and prevent systemic risks.

      Positive Effects:

      1. Financial Inclusion: Nationalization significantly expanded the reach of banking services to rural and underserved areas, bringing a more significant portion of the population into the formal financial system.

      2. Credit to Priority Sectors: Nationalized banks played a crucial role in the evolution of banking in India and providing credit to agriculture, small industries, and other priority sectors, fostering economic growth in these areas.

      3. Public Confidence: Nationalized banks enjoyed higher public trust due to government backing, which helped stabilise the financial system during times of economic uncertainty.

      4. Stable Financial System: The regulatory oversight and government control over nationalised banks contributed to a more stable financial environment, reducing the risk of bank failures.

      Negative Effects:

      1. Bureaucratic Interference: Government control sometimes leads to bureaucratic decision-making, delaying the approval of loans and hindering efficiency in operations.

      2. Lack of Innovation: Nationalized banks were often criticised for their slow adoption of technological advancements and innovative financial products, which affected their competitiveness.

      3. Political Pressure: Government ownership could sometimes lead to political interference in banking operations, influencing lending decisions for reasons other than financial viability.

      4. Resource Constraints: Nationalized banks faced challenges in raising sufficient capital from the market due to government ownership, which could limit their ability to expand and modernise.

      With a rich history of banking sector in India dating back to colonial times, India's banking system has evolved significantly over the years, giving rise to a diverse array of banks that cater to various needs of individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole.

      Different types of Banks in India Today

      Public Sector Banks (PSBs)

      Public Sector Banks, often referred to as PSBs, are government-owned financial institutions.

      These banks have a significant presence across the country and play a vital role in serving the banking needs of rural and urban populations alike. Examples of PSBs include the State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB), and Bank of Baroda (BoB).

      They provide a wide range of banking services, including savings and current accounts, loans, and investment options. PSBs also contribute to financial inclusion by reaching underserved areas and offering various government schemes.

      Private Sector Banks

      Private Sector Banks are privately owned financial institutions that operate with the goal of profit maximisation.

      These banks are known for their innovation, customer-centric approach, and advanced technology adoption.

      They cater to a diverse clientele, offering personalised services and modern banking solutions.

      Prominent private sector banks in India include ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank.

      Their focus on digital banking and customer experience has contributed significantly to India's rapidly evolving banking landscape.

      Foreign Banks

      Foreign Banks are international financial institutions that have a presence in India.

      These banks bring global expertise, diverse financial products, and an international perspective to the Indian banking sector.

      They cater to both corporate clients and high-net-worth individuals, offering a range of services such as foreign exchange transactions, trade finance, and investment advisory.

      Examples of foreign banks operating in India include Citibank, Standard Chartered, and HSBC.

      Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

      Regional Rural Banks are specialised banks that were established to enhance financial inclusion in rural areas.

      RRBs are a collaborative effort between the central government, the state government, and the sponsoring public sector bank.

      They primarily focus on agricultural and rural lending, offering services like crop loans, livestock financing, and rural development schemes.

      These banks bridge the gap between the formal banking sector and rural communities, fostering economic growth in these areas.

      Co-operative Banks

      The history of cooperative bank in India dates back to the late 19th century when the first cooperative credit society was formed in 1904 in Kanagala, Karnataka. Co-operative Banks are financial institutions owned and operated by their members, who are often from the same community or locality.

      These banks follow the cooperative principles of democratic control and shared benefits. Co-operative banks serve the banking needs of both urban and rural populations, offering services like savings and credit facilities.

      They play a crucial role in providing financial support to small-scale industries and self-help groups.


      The post-independence history of banking system in India has been marked by dynamic shifts and transformative policies that have aimed to foster financial inclusion, economic growth, and stability.

      From the nationalisation of major banks to the introduction of innovative technologies, the Indian banking sector has strived to cater to the diverse needs of its populace. 

      The evolution from a heavily regulated environment to a more liberalised and technologically advanced landscape showcases the resilience and adaptability of the Indian banking system.

      As India continues to make strides toward modernisation and globalisation, the banking sector will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the nation's economic trajectory, underscoring the importance of maintaining a delicate balance between innovation and inclusivity.