Why niche banking matters

The Shriram group has succeeded by taking credit to its last mile, where commercial banks typically fear to tread.
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Providing credit for the little man can be big business (AFP)
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<div style="text-align: left;"> Providing credit for the little man can be big business (AFP) </div>

The combination of retail and commercial lending with investment services, or universal banking, has long been the Holy Grail of the finance industry. In theory the model allows for unimaginable efficiencies that reduce the cost of capital for every kind of borrower and provides the rationale for an integrated financial services business.

But most banks, despite their best intentions, are anything but universal. They often fail to touch even those within their reach and most in need of their services. Yet their failure creates opportunities for anybody willing to make the effort and the Chennai-based Shriram Group is a case in point.

Group founder R Thyagarajan learnt...

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