Banking in India, in the modern sense, originated in the last decades of the 18th century. Among the first banks were the Bank of Hindostan, which was established in 1770 and liquidated in 1829-32; and the General Bank of India, established in 1786 but failed in 1791.
The largest bank, and the oldest still in existence, is the State Bank of India (S.B.I). It originated as the Bank of Calcutta in June 1806. In 1809, it was renamed as the Bank of Bengal. This was one of the three banks funded by a presidency government, the other two were the Bank of Bombay and the Bank of Madras. The three banks were merged in 1921 to form the Imperial Bank of India, which upon India’s independence, became the State Bank of India in 1955. For many years the presidency banks had acted as quasi-central banks, as did their successors, until the Reserve Bank of India was established in 1935, under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
In 1960, the State Banks of India was given control of eight state-associated banks under the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959. These are now called its associate banks. In 1969 the Indian government nationalised 14 major private banks. In 1980, 6 more private banks were nationalised. These nationalised banks are the majority of lenders in the Indian economy. They dominate the banking sector because of their large size and widespread networks.
The Indian banking sector is broadly classified into scheduled banks and non-scheduled banks. The scheduled banks are those included under the 2nd Schedule of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. The scheduled banks are further classified into: nationalised banks; State Bank of India and its associates; Regional Rural Banks (RRBs); foreign banks; and other Indian private sector banks. The term commercial banks refers to both scheduled and non-scheduled commercial banks regulated under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.
Generally banking in India is fairly mature in terms of supply, product range and reach-even though reach in rural India and to the poor still remains a challenge. The government has developed initiatives to address this through the State Bank of India expanding its branch network and through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development with facilities like microfinance.