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India's Banks Are Big on Microfinance

Lending money to the poor has largely been the province of small operators, but major financial institutions are now starting to focus on it in a serious way... India's biggest commercial lenders, such as [ICICI,] HDFC and UTI banks, as well as the State Bank of India, have started to focus in on this sector... Even multinational banks with operations in India like ABN Amro, Standard Chartered, HSBC, and Citigroup are moving into the microfinance sector... there are complications. For one thing, there have been allegations that some microlenders structure complicated loans with hidden costs to exploit borrowers... Government inspectors accused four microlenders—Spandana, Asmita, Umdama Pottu Pedatha, and Share Microfin—of charging interest rates as high as 40% to 50% and harassing borrowers for repayment. [also refers to Basix, SKS (Swayam Krishi Sangam), Grameen Bank]