The sudden decision by several companies to give up their licences to set up specialist payments banks is puzzling. There was a lot of bullish talk in recent months about how payments banks would offer a pot of gold at the unbanked bottom of the pyramid. It is safe to assume that the companies do not find the prospect to be as profitable as they thought. But it also makes us wonder what sort of strategic planning is done by Indian companies when they identify a new venture for capital allocation.
It would also be peevish of the Reserve Bank of India to impose fines on companies that are giving up their licences. Gatekeepers should not fine people who turn away at the last minute. They should ask why this is so. It is thus more important to understand whether the licensing procedure can be improved so that similar withdrawals are avoided in the future.
Meanwhile, see this as a setback to the ambitious race towards a cashless society.