And No, this question is not asked in the political context with our Northeastern borders racked by chronic insurgency and of course the unrest in J & K.
It is not even in the context of a common single market where many foreign direct investors will testify that this is not just a rhetorical question. In fact the early investors in the India story discovered the maze of local taxes, levies and regulations divided India into many small markets (of which some were more profitably serviceable from manufacturing locations located outside India rather than from a location within India).
Anyway much water has flown down the Ganges since those early days and the impending implementation of the Goods and Services Tax would perhaps be the culmination of a series of steps that have already been initiated in recent years to forge a common India market.
The question is in the relatively mundane context of Home loans. Recently I spoke to a friend of mine who wanted to a buy a flat in Kolkata while he was working in Mumbai. He wanted to use my expertise on home loan to suggest solutions for a problem that he was facing in getting a loan. He approached a bank in Kolkata who said they would have given him the loan as both the property and his income papers were in order, but they asked him to visit their branch in Mumbai to get a loan as he was working in Mumbai.
When we came back to Mumbai after finalizing the property in Kolkata, he approached the branch of the same bank only to be informed to visit a branch in Kolkata as the property is in Kolkata and they need to value the property before giving the loan. This friend of mine had already paid Rs. 51,000 for booking amount and if he was unable to book the flat, the developer would return back only 50% of the booking amount (after negotiations as the developer was not ready to return a penny out of it).
Tensed with all these issues, he called up asking me Is India really one Nation? The property was ready to move in with all title documents and his loan eligibility was coming around to more than Rs. 20 lakhs (he needed only Rs. 14 lakhs).
I decided to do some research on the same as the number of people moving to other cities for work has been increasing significantly and this may be a common problem faced by quite a few of them who either have plans of relocating or to buy a property for their parents in their home city. We have also seen an increase in the number of similar queries we receive on apnapaisa.com.
We did a round of mystery shopping as well as spoke to the major home loan players. Here is what we found. When we spoke to the players officially each of the players said that such loans are no problems as they have a single common system across the country.
However the situation on the ground was a little different. From among the lenders we spoke to as mystery shoppers only HDFC and ICICI followed up on our initial call (we had dangled the bait of Rs. 70 lac home loan). Even the official we spoke to in a SBI branch assured us that they would be able to do the transaction subject to their normal credit and operational checks.
The other two private sector banks and the one foreign bank that we spoke to (or visited) as mystery customers either told us that they could not do such a deal or did not respond back after taking down the initial details.
We already knew a few DSA’s (who are our clients as advertisers on our site) and we thought of getting this answered from them also. We spoke to a large DSA based out of Mumbai who serviced many banks. His feedback corroborated our own findings on mystery shopping.
Another DSA we spoke to in Mumbai (who did not work with either HDFC or ICICI) said he would be able to get the transaction done provided the project in Kolkatta was pre-approved by any of the banks he worked for.
I also did a bit of informal talking with the private sector banks that had turned down (or did not show much interest in) our mystery shopper. What came out was that none of them had an effective loan origination system across the country and unless the loan amount was big enough the amount of effort required to co-ordinate with another city was just not justified. Each office is driven by its own KRAs and as legal checking work done for another office was not counted as part of their KRAs this clearly did not enjoy any priority.
What it boiled down to was that a loan that was clearly falling within their credit and legal norms of the bank was being given up simply because of the mismatch of KRAs between the two branch offices. Of course for a determined customer this would still be possible but it might take a lot more time than usual.
The only saving grace to come out of this story was that at least for a few lenders India was a ‘single country.
Disclosure: Most of the banks mentioned in the article are advertisers on Apnapaisa.