India and Foreign Currency Conversion

The Post is little longer. U can take many rest while reading it.

This is not any apocryphal story. Let me put in this blog some stories which represent the hard times that people face in this country. One of the story that represent our hard times in India is getting foreign exchange from Banks. I am writing about some experience faced by my friend and me in recent years.

These are some of the old experiences that I had around 2007 and 2008. In 2009 also, one of my friends told that he had the same experience like me and my other friend way back in 2007 and 2008. So, I am writing this piece as my experience in India regarding the problems of converting Indian Currency to Foreign Exchange- US Dollars.

In Connaught Place New Delhi, almost all the shops there are brokers for foreign exchange. They are, in my opinion, authorized people to deal with forex. The rate of these people will be slightly different from the nationalized banks has to offer. They buy US Dollar by giving you less amount than nationalized bank has to give; and charge you little higher Indian Currency if you want to buy US Dollar. So, You may think why not to go to Banks? – nationalized banks and private banks where you get slightly better rates?

Same we thought- back in 2007, also in 2008 and again in 2009. However, we fail to understand why these banks are reluctant to sell USD to you. Why do they need so many documents from you so that at last, you give up the idea of buying/selling forex? If legally, these many documents are required, then, are these people who buy and sell forex in all those blocks around Connaught place are doing business illegally? These people are not doing business in the dark. They are buying and selling USD in open market and does not seem to be doing any illegal business.

Then, it must be that our government has such an archaic rules which can not be understood by general public. I tell you the story of 2007 and at that time in Pune, we had to sell around 400 USD. We approached a shop dealing with forex. They easily gave us Indian Currency, took Xerox of our Passports, and took two print-outs of the receipts. They signed one of the receipts and gave to us. They retained another receipt with noting our passport number there and issuing country.

That’s all. The process was over by then.

Later, in Delhi, in 2008, we approached to Punjab National Bank in Connaught Place, New Delhi. Since my friend was leaving to her country, she had to change some only 2000 Indian currencies. Punjab National Bank gave us a simple answer that since the amount is small; you better convert it in Airport itself. We understood that it can not happen here now and headed to Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi. There inside, after security check up, it was converted. Interestingly, if you convert your Indian money to US Dollar in Airport, you have to pay much higher amount for each dollar. And if you convert Dollar to Indian currency, you get much less Rupees. And that day, I realized how difficult it will be to buy and sell USD from Indian Banks in India.

But, that is an iceberg of a problem- real problem that happened in 2009 makes you realize really how difficult the problem is.

Now, let me tell you the problem of my friend that was faced in 2009. He has account with Indian Bank, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank and HSBC Bank.

This is interesting to mention here that he has his savings and credit card accounts in so many banks as he will be asked by almost all the banks whether he has account with that bank. Let me start a story with an ICICI Bank’s one of the branches in Cannaught Place in New Delhi.

There, he made a good effort to explain his problems and what services he expected from the bank employees. And, those bank employees made no efforts even to hear him. The bank was so crowded, and there were many people and the voices of my friend just created another cacophony in that group. Shortly, he gave up and opened the door and walked out.

There are many banks in Cannaught Place and my friend simply did not seem to be worried by the service of ICICI bank. If not this bank, there is another was in his mind.

Now, on the way, He saw another bank- he does not remember the name, either it was Standard Chartered bank or something called American Express. He tried to enter and on the gate the security guard stopped him. He thought they wanted to frisk him for security purpose. But the guard asks him why he wants to go inside. He answered for what he had come there.

The Security guard told him he can not get this service there, and immediately noted some Forex broker’s address on the paper and handed to my friend. The guard told to name of the bank, and told my friend to say that he has been referred by that bank-may be Standard Charted Bank. My friend got surprised, stunned and left the place fuming, and tearing that piece of paper. He could see thousands of brokers on the way and did not need any reference and address from anyone, much less from security guards of a bank where he was not allowed to enter.

And then, he moved. On the way, he saw a less crowded and completely calm place called ‘South Indian Bank’. What is there in the name if he can get service there? He entered and said what he wanted. He was asked whether he has bank account with this South Indian Bank. The answer was no and they also said that no, he can not get forex service there if he has not bank account there. He was asked in which bank he has account with? He replied, ‘State Bank of India’ among many banks with which he has accounts. He was told to walk little ahead, and there he will see ‘State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur’ which is one of the many subsidiaries/group banks of State controlled ‘State Bank of India’. He obeyed. He went to State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and explained the case. He was asked whether he has bank account with State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and he replied that he has with ‘State Bank of India’. He was nicely advised to go ‘State Bank of India’ which is just 100 meters away from that place. He again obeyed.

He went to that bank ‘State Bank of India’ and found that that particular bank branch is for NRI Services. The bank served only to those customers which have bank account with that particular branch. He was told other two bank branches of ‘State Bank of India’ which were around Cannaught Place and was suggested to go there. Now, he succumbed little, and gave up the plan to visit those branches of ‘State Bank of India’. But, while walking around, he saw another bank ‘Indian Bank’ with which also he had bank account. He thought to give a last shot, and went inside, and explained his problem. The bank told that since my friend has bank account with Indian Bank in some other branch in Hyderabad, it takes minimum two to three days to get the services. My friend was told that he needs to submit his Visa and Passport, reasons for foreign currency requirements in one application. The request should be routed through his branch in Hyderabad, his branch in Hyderabad should be convinced that he really requires foreign currency and once the branch in Hyderabad approves the release of foreign currency, then, he will get it after two three days from Delhi Branch of Indian Bank.

The explanation frightened my friend, he came out and just on his right, there was a foreign currency dealer. He gave his Indian rupees-a thick bunch of money and received around 9 to 10 US 100 Dollar Notes.

He was really amazed, really frustrated and all smiling moved ahead to Delhi Metro Station in Palika Bazar, as I saw him on that day.

(I will write my experience of Nepal in relation to foreign currency conversion after few days.)

15 thoughts on “India and Foreign Currency Conversion

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