India’s banks have a poor reputation—and for good reason. The state-controlled ones offer cheap credit to the well-connected, have piles of bad loans and are barely accountable. Nor are the private ones flawless. In the past year the bosses of two of the biggest left after concerns were expressed by the Reserve Bank of India: at Axis Bank because of credit problems and at Yes Bank because of governance worries. The head of the second-largest, ICICI, stepped down because of a scandal involving loans to a firm whose shareholder had dealings with her husband.
In this dismal scene one bank, HDFC, consistently shines. In the coming days it is expected to announce the latest in a series of stellar performances. Profits are expected to be around 20% higher than last year. Return on assets is 1.8% and return on equity is around 17%—excellent for a bank. The share price is 286 times what it was in 1995, when the firm went public—and 132 times its 1995 level in dollars. The bank’s market value is over $90bn, and Goldman Sachs thinks that it could exceed $200bn by 2024. That would gain HDFC admittance to a global elite now made up of American and Chinese behemoths.