The recent crackdown by the Reserve Bank of India on easy personal loans, tightened capital norms for lenders disbursing unsecured loans to unsuspecting borrowers is a rationale behind this move.

Given the slowdown in corporate loans, banks have been chasing retail customers for loans. Such has been the rush to offer loans that top-ups are being offered even on auto loans which is just a camouflaged unsecured credit.

For example, Suresh Chandra (name changed) had a ₹15 lakh car loan that had to be paid off in 12 months. Before he could repay his existing auto loan, he was being inundated by banks and NBFCs luring him into taking more loans. A large private bank offered him a top-up loan that’s akin to the value of his car, and another wanted to offer a loan that was 150% of the part of the loan that had already been paid off.

“Sometimes I get tempted to take up on these offers. Also because technically auto loan interest is lower and they’re offering the top-ups at the same rate. If I need money, I will surely take this up instead of a new personal loan,” Chandra told #Khabarlive.

Giving a top-up loan is a good way for banks and NBFCs to push across new loans to borrowers. A top-up loan is an additional credit that’s given over and above an existing loan and when opting for a balance transfer. It doesn’t come with end-use restrictions and requires minimum documentation.

Now, India’s central bank has cracked down on lenders to stall this aggressive loan push to consumers tightening capital norms. Not only has it classified top-up loans as unsecured loans, it also increased risk weight on unsecured loans like personal loans, credit card receivables, consumer credit and more such. It will make it tougher for them to give out loans as easily and freely to consumers.

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RBI puts up a ‘STOP’ sign

Banks and NBFCs have been giving out too many unsecured loans. Unsecured retail loans have been growing at a 26% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) between FY18 to FY23, as per Nomura. In FY18, unsecured retail loans were 7.8% of bank credit and now they’re as high as 10.6%. All this has happened by chasing after consumers for loans.

“We view this as a clear signal from the regulator that it wants to bring down the strong growth in these segments, which is being brought into effect by bringing about an increase in the effective cost of capital for lending to these segments,” says a report by Nomura.

Experts say that RBI’s move will control the increasing delinquencies and high risks associated with lending in the unsecured loan segment. Due to increased risk weightage, lenders should have to cover for more credit risk in the unsecured loan segment and it will make lending more expensive. The loans will also turn more expensive for borrowers.

“RBI has been cognizant of the high increase in unsecured lending and initial delinquency trends seen in the unsecured loan segment. While this might look like a small piece in the overall picture, the RBI is cautious enough to take an early step in controlling the same,” says Ameet Venkeshwar, chief business officer at LoanTap.

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The credit standards will also get tighter, experts hope. Most top banks offer personal loans at interest rates ranging between 10-26% depending on creditworthiness. These loans can go as high as ₹20 lakh and the minimum income limit has to be ₹30,000 to become eligible for such loans.

Thou shall not tempt

The free flow of personal loans has been pushing credit culture in the country. Preeti Mishra, a professional from Mumbai has a similar story. “I swiped as much as ₹50,000 on my debit card to pay my child’s school fees. Immediately, I got a call from my bank offering to convert that payment into a loan which can be paid off in installments. Why would I want to take a loan which I can afford to pay?” she says.

Like Chandra, she also says that it’s fairly tempting. “Even if I was in a tad bit of a money crunch, I would have taken up the loan. And, in the long run, it would have made it tougher for me,” she worries that one bad day she might actually fall into a trap.

Sumanto Roy is one such who has fallen into it, and now swimming at the deep end. The 27-year-old earns ₹60,000 per month. He already has a car loan that takes away ₹10,000 per month, another ₹8,000 as EMI for his phone and another ₹12,000 goes off his bank account every month as his laptop EMI.

If Roy wasn’t living with his parents, he would have found it very tough to get by with this loan burden. “It’s difficult to pay off my credit card bill every month. I roll it over by making the minimum payment. Now, I am saving and trying to pay off my dues as fast as possible,” he tells Business Insider India adding that the loan burden is distressing him personally.

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Will BNPL hold on?

However, banks and NBFCs are one side of the aggressive loan push story. There is a rising number of Buy Now Pay Later startups, companies that integrate EMIs while checking out of e-commerce websites, and VC-funded startups that loan for people who borrow to go on a holiday or a date.

Experts believe that RBI’s move might change the dynamics of some of these fintechs to some extent. Jefferies expects PayTm’s consumer loan disbursal growth to normalize from around 90% in FY24 to 40% in FY25 and 35% in FY26.

“For Paytm’s lending partners, higher funding costs and increased capital requirements will affect product profitability in BNPL/PL. They may respond by tightening credit standards and/or moderating growth from elevated levels right now,” Jefferies says.

Giving loans is a good business in today’s world where GenZs, especially are focussed more on ‘experiences’, want to live the good life. On the other hand, the new-age apps advertise in a buzzing manner day in and day out with taglines like — ‘Download, pay your credit card bills and earn rewards’.

The lure of loan was always there. At the end of the day, lenders are different when you take the loan, and when it’s the time to pay up. Sooner or later, they would want their pound of flesh right at the heart. ■ #hydnews #khabarlive #hydkhabar