An informative read

Book: HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital

Author: Tamal Bandyopadhay 

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 430; Price: Rs 499

When most professionals start reading the book they will think why they did not receive a call from Deepak Parekh, Chairman HDFC Ltd. and Aditya Puri, Managing Director, HDFC Bank; when they were building the HDFC bank. The founding 13-member team was handpicked from across the world (in some cases, their spouses had to be convinced about the future of the new upcoming bank). This book is about how Aditya Puri built the HDFC bank: from hiring to firing of the staff, selecting technology to taking over banks, strict 9 am to 5 pm working hours and more.

Seven years ago, a book on HDFC bank, titled Bank for the Buck: The New Bank Movement and the Untold Story of the Making of India’s Most Valued Bank authored by Tamal Bandyopadhay, was published. This book is an updated version of the same, mainly documenting the vast changes taking place in banking industry, as well as HDFC, essentially due to technology. In this book, as per the author, ‘first four chapters have been new addition, the rest have been recast with new information to make them contemporary and relevant. Some of the chapters have been extensively rewritten, incorporating the latest information and updating all data’.

Different authentic versions of Times Bank’s merger with HDFC bank, while making an interesting read, leaves one admiring the author’s ability to extract information from different sources. But at the same time one wonders what makes the author simply write that Ramkrishna Dalmia sold the publishing house (Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd.) to his son in law? It was not that simple. The delicate balance in relationship between HDFC Ltd. (HDFC is a leading provider of Housing Finance in India) and HDFC bank teaches a lot about managing group companies. The comparison with ICICI bank comes across as a nice case study on different approaches to banking.

The finer point that stands out is how private sector has played and will play a major role in India’s economic growth and they should be welcomed by government. Government has a major role to play in the banking sector, but at the same time the private sector has a significant task to perform and it should be given its due space and recognition. Tamal has successfully documented the digital disruption in banking by HDFC. The step by step process of implementing technological intervention and delicately handling the same and making it easy for urban and rural consumers makes for a fascinating read. 

The objective of the updated version has been achieved undoubtedly. But in the end, the bottom line that remains is technology, infrastructure, etc. are fine, but it is managing the relation with the employees, customers and business partners which can make or break a company. Two indexes, one for individuals and the other for groups/locations is a good idea. Extensive glossary will be of immense help to those readers who are not well versed with banking terminology. Anyone who has interest in banking or finance will be able to learn a lot from the book.