[YS Exclusive] SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar spells out role of the Indian banking sector in reviving the economy

In an exclusive interview with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, State Bank of India Chairman Rajnish Kumar says the overall health of the Indian financial system will be crucial in reviving the Indian economy.

[YS Exclusive] SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar spells out role of the Indian banking sector in reviving the economy

Monday July 13, 2020,

4 min Read

Rajnish Kumar, SBI

L-R: Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory; Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, SBI

When the country went under complete lockdown in March, little did people expect its impact on an already shrinking economy to be so widespread. But the lockdown, as well as fears over the spread of the coronavirus, has had a devastating impact on the economy, shuttering many businesses, and forcing others to announce a slew of cost-cutting measures, including job and pay cuts. 

Now as the Indian government and India Inc rallies together to revive the economy, the country’s banking system will play an important role in the success of these efforts, says State Bank of India Chairman Rajnish Kumar in an exclusive interview with YourStory Media Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.

For this reason, the health of the Indian banking industry will be crucial in helping the country weather the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, adds the veteran banker and business leader, who believes the current crisis also presents an opportunity to quickly effect positive changes in sectors and areas that were otherwise considered difficult to penetrate.

“Many sectors, where it was earlier politically difficult to push for reforms, are now seeing reforms taking place. The entire way of thinking and working is also undergoing a change... That is why, in this crisis, it is possible to do many things that otherwise would not have been done,” Rajnish Kumar says.

Watch the full exclusive interview of SBI Chairman Rajnish Chairman with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma 

Digital transformation of SBI

Extolling SBI’s digital transformation, Rajnish Kumar calls SBI YONO — the bank’s integrated digital banking and lifestyle platform — ‘one of a kind,’ citing its various inherent advantages that make the model difficult to replicate.

Recently, on the eve of the 65th anniversary of SBI’s Foundation Day, Rajnish Kumar had launched the YONO branch, venturing into a brick and mortar model for its flagship digital banking platform to enable its customers to adopt digital banking. 

“It is difficult to copy our design, thinking, and in getting the technology right. It is a huge gain in terms of convenience and for our customers, it is just about the experience. The more simple we keep it at the front-end, the more complex the technology is. So, we have brought in the best minds as far as the design elements are concerned,” Rajnish explains. 

YONO, which adopts a 'digital first’ model,  provides banking services and investment products, while serving as an online marketplace with over 85 percent of all ecommerce players found on it. 

YONO — which adopts the ‘You Only Need One’ philosophy that also lends it its name — has over 2.4 crore registered users and more than 5.1 crore downloads.

With a focus on driving digital banking adoption, SBI has, over the years, also worked closely with hundreds of startups on innovative solutions that leverage cutting edge technologies. And this level of collaboration will continue, says Rajnish. 

“Startups are doing a great job — whether it is in the area of cybersecurity or risk management or fraud detection. I am a fan of startups in the country. We can bring the scale and they can bring intellectual capital to the table. So it will be a winning combination,” he adds.
Rajnish Kumar, SBI

Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, SBI

Finding opportunities in crisis 

With about 40 years of experience in the banking sector, Rajnish also shared his personal learnings and insights from his professional journey, including that of the power of positive thinking to tide over any crisis. 

“It will be the power of positive thinking and thought that can help you to deal with this situation. Whatever is negative, remember that you are not grappling it alone — the whole world is. The pandemic has forced us to have a new way of thinking,” he avers. 

Here’s an overview of the key topics and their time-stamps from the SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar’s interview with Shradha Sharma:

[0:38] On turning a crisis into an opportunity

[2:50] On economic slowdown and banks playing a critical role amid the pandemic

[5:00] On SBI and the digital ecosystem of India 

[7:07] On reviving the MSME sector


[10:05] On the Indian economy 

[12:37] On the digital transformation of SBI 

[17:32] On partnering with Indian startups 

[18:54] Rajnish Kumar’s vision when he had joined SBI

[21:12] His learnings from his professional life

[23:07] On SBI YONO, its workings, and how different it is from others 

[28:08] On the COVID-19 pandemic, and his personal learnings and experience 

(With inputs from Apurva P)

Edited by Tenzin Pema