Dubai: UAE Exchange Centre, one of the world's largest money exchange and remittance service providers, has applied for a banking licence in India.
Sudhir Kumar Shetty, Chief Operating Officer, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview: "We have applied for a full banking licence in India in April, following the Indian Union Finance Minister's announcement that deserving candidates could apply for new banking licences."
The move could mark a new beginning for the UAE's largest remittance service provider which last year recorded a turnover of $29 billion (Dh106.4 billion).
The company, which will complete three decades of service next month, serves 3.5 million customers through 485 offices in 22 countries.
It has 6,700 professionals on its payroll representing 38 nationalities. More than 50 per cent of its customers are from the UAE.
India, the world's largest recipient of remittances, received $49 billion worth of remittances last year.
UAE Exchange said it would soon introduce chip-and-pin-based remittance cards, or "mobile wallets", that could be pre-loaded with cash for online money transfer.
"With this, customers won't have to come to the money exchange counters to remit money. They could do [it] online and through the pre-loaded cards," Shetty said.
"We have taken retail money remittance to the next level. With this, we will move towards a cashless society.
"Since we have such a huge network of remittance customers, retail banking comes as a natural expansion for us," he said.
The Gulf region, where the UAE Exchange Centre has the largest footprint, is also one of the largest hosts of non-resident Indians (NRIs) who are the biggest source of India-bound remittances. A banking function would help the company consolidate the remittance business further.
Given its credentials, the company was hopeful of getting the banking licence, Shetty said.
More than 82,500 branches belonging to 171 commercial banks serve India with an average of about 14,000 people sharing a banking office or unit in the country.
Non-resident Indian (NRI) fund inflows have increased since April 2009 and touched $47.8 billion last March, according to the Reserve Bank of India's June 2010 bulletin.
Most of this was funnelled through Foreign Currency Non-resident (FCNR) accounts and Non-resident External Rupee Accounts.