State Bank of India’s history dates back to 1806 when the Bank of Calcutta was set up under British rule. Later, two more presidency banks — the Bank of Bombay and the Bank of Madras were setup. These three banks were merged into the Imperial Bank in 1921 which continued till after India gained independence.
In 1955, the State Bank of India was set up by an Act of Parliament by taking over the Imperial Bank with the mandate of rural development. A few years later, SBI took over eight former state associated banks as its subsidiaries.
“The State Bank of India basically has been a government’s bank but it has been a bank that had a motto of profit with growth. So the profit element was never totally given away because it was felt that a bank that needs to survive and be relevant also needs to be profitable,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairman of SBI.
Of course, what has changed drastically is the size and scale of operation and the use of technology. What has also changed is the competitive landscape; with the entry of private sector banks in the 90s, competition became intense especially in the retail segments.
Private sector banks advertised their service, ease of loan disbursement and timings in order to woo the urban and middle-class customers.
SBI suddenly found its market share slipping and decided to proactively win back lost share.
Once that was tackled came the external communication. The first series of ad promised pure banking, nothing else.