Non-Performing Asset (NPA): What , Why & Impact


Did you know that in 2020, Indian banks had a staggering ₹9.5 lakh crore tied up in non-performing assets (NPAs)? With the Indian economy grappling with numerous challenges, it’s more important than ever to understand the concept of NPAs and their far-reaching impact. In this engaging article, we will delve into the world of non-performing assets, exploring their significance, historical context, current trends, and the ways in which they affect you personally. So, let’s dive in and unravel the complex web of NPAs and their implications on our financial landscape.

What is a Non-Performing Asset (NPA)?

A Non-Performing Asset (NPA) is a loan or advance that has been extended by a bank or financial institution, for which the principal or interest payment has not been made for a specified period, typically 90 days. In simpler terms, an NPA is a loan that has turned ‘bad’ or ‘sour’ because the borrower is unable to repay the borrowed amount or the interest on time.

NPAs play a crucial role in determining the financial health of banks and financial institutions. They are considered a significant concern for these institutions because non-performing assets represent loans that are not generating any income. Instead, they are causing a loss of revenue and, in many cases, eating into the capital that the bank had set aside for lending purposes.

The accumulation of NPAs can lead to several adverse consequences for the banking sector and the overall economy. High levels of NPAs can:

  1. Erode the profitability of banks, as they have to make provisions for bad loans, which reduces their net income.
  2. Weaken the bank’s balance sheet, as the value of their assets declines, affecting their ability to lend further.
  3. Impair the bank’s capital adequacy, which is a measure of a bank’s financial strength and stability.
  4. Create a negative perception among investors and depositors, leading to reduced confidence in the banking system.
  5. Hamper economic growth, as the reduced lending capacity of banks can limit the availability of credit for businesses and individuals.

Given these consequences, it is crucial for banks and financial institutions to effectively manage and minimize their NPAs. This can be achieved through prudent lending practices, robust risk management systems, and timely recovery of bad loans. In doing so, they can ensure their financial stability and contribute to the overall health of the economy.

Also Read : Emergency Fund: Building a Cash Reserve for Emergencies as an Indian Student

The Importance of NPAs

Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) hold significant importance in the context of the Indian economy due to their far-reaching consequences. These consequences can be broadly categorized into three major areas:

  1. Impact on banks’ profitability and capital adequacy: High levels of NPAs erode the profitability of banks, as they have to set aside funds to cover potential losses from bad loans. This provisioning reduces the net income of the banks, making it difficult for them to maintain adequate capital levels. A bank’s capital adequacy is a crucial indicator of its financial strength and stability. A decline in capital adequacy can lead to a loss of confidence among investors and depositors, further exacerbating the situation.
  2. Reduced availability of credit to borrowers: As NPAs increase, banks become more cautious in their lending practices to minimize the risk of further bad loans. This cautious approach results in a reduced availability of credit for businesses and individuals, thereby hampering economic growth. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are often more vulnerable to economic fluctuations, may find it particularly challenging to secure loans in such an environment.
  3. Higher cost of borrowing: To compensate for the losses incurred due to NPAs, banks may increase the interest rates on loans. This increase in borrowing costs can create a ripple effect throughout the economy, as it raises the cost of capital for businesses and makes it more expensive for individuals to finance purchases, such as homes or vehicles.

To better understand the magnitude of the issue, let’s examine the following data points:

  • The Gross NPA ratio of Indian banks increased significantly from 2.67% in 2011 to 9.3% in 2020. This rise indicates that a larger proportion of the banks’ loan portfolio has become non-performing, reflecting a decline in asset quality.
  • Public sector banks, which play a crucial role in the Indian banking system, accounted for a staggering 80% of the total NPAs in 2020. This high concentration of NPAs in public sector banks highlights the need for better risk management practices and more stringent lending standards.

In light of these factors, it becomes evident that addressing the issue of NPAs is of paramount importance for the stability and growth of the Indian economy. By adopting prudent lending practices, improving risk management systems, and focusing on the timely recovery of bad loans, banks and financial institutions can mitigate the adverse effects of NPAs and contribute to a healthier economic environment.

Also Read : Cash vs. Credit: Best Guide for Indian Students

The History of NPAs in India

To gain a deeper understanding of the issue of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in India, it is essential to explore the historical context in which they emerged. The evolution of NPAs in the Indian banking sector can be traced back to three significant events:

  1. Nationalization of banks (1969 and 1980): In 1969, the Indian government nationalized 14 major banks, followed by the nationalization of six more banks in 1980. This move aimed to promote financial inclusion and prioritize social banking, ensuring that credit reached the underprivileged sections of society. However, this focus on social objectives led to the dilution of credit standards and risk assessment practices, resulting in a higher number of NPAs. Additionally, political interference and directed lending to specific sectors further contributed to the increase in bad loans.
  2. Economic liberalization (1991): The economic reforms of 1991 marked a turning point for the Indian economy, as they led to the liberalization, privatization, and globalization of various sectors, including banking. The entry of private and foreign banks into the market increased competition in the banking sector, prompting banks to adopt aggressive lending practices to maintain their market share. In many cases, this aggressive approach led to the relaxation of credit standards and inadequate risk assessment, resulting in a rise in NPAs.
  3. Global financial crisis (2008): The global financial crisis of 2008 had a profound impact on economies worldwide, including India. The crisis led to a slowdown in the Indian economy, with sectors such as infrastructure, real estate, and manufacturing witnessing a decline in growth. The economic downturn, coupled with the high leverage of many corporations, resulted in an increase in NPAs as borrowers struggled to repay their loans amid the challenging economic environment.

These historical events offer valuable insights into the factors that have contributed to the growth of NPAs in India. Recognizing these factors is crucial for policymakers, regulators, and banks to devise effective strategies to address the issue of NPAs and ensure the stability and growth of the Indian economy. By learning from the past, the banking sector can adopt more prudent lending practices, strengthen risk management systems, and focus on the timely recovery of bad loans to mitigate the adverse effects of NPAs.

Current Trends and Future Predictions

The current state of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in India can be analyzed through recent trends and future predictions, which provide valuable insights into the evolving landscape of NPAs in the Indian banking sector.

  1. Declining Gross NPA ratio: Since 2018, the Gross NPA ratio of Indian banks has been on a downward trend, indicating an improvement in the asset quality of the banks. This decline can be attributed to various factors, such as the recovery of bad loans, write-offs, and the implementation of stricter lending standards by banks.
  2. Regulatory measures by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI): The RBI has taken several measures to address the issue of NPAs in the Indian banking sector. One significant step is the introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in 2016, which aims to streamline the process of resolving insolvency and bankruptcy cases, enabling the faster recovery of bad loans. Additionally, the RBI has implemented other regulatory measures, such as prompt corrective action (PCA) framework, asset quality review (AQR), and guidelines on restructuring stressed assets, to ensure the stability and growth of the banking sector.
  3. Short-term increase in NPAs due to the COVID-19 pandemic: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global economy, including India. Experts predict that NPAs may rise in the short term, as businesses and individuals face financial stress due to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. Sectors such as aviation, hospitality, tourism, and retail have been severely affected, increasing the risk of loan defaults.
  4. Long-term decline in NPAs due to economic recovery and regulatory measures: Despite the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic, experts believe that NPAs are expected to decline in the long run. This optimism is based on the anticipation of economic recovery, supported by government stimulus packages and the gradual reopening of businesses. Furthermore, the continued implementation of regulatory measures by the RBI, such as the IBC and PCA framework, will contribute to the reduction of NPAs in the Indian banking sector.

The current trends and future predictions indicate that the issue of NPAs in India is gradually being addressed through a combination of economic recovery, regulatory measures, and prudent lending practices by banks. While short-term challenges persist due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term outlook for the Indian banking sector appears to be more promising, with a decline in NPAs expected in the coming years.

Here’s the table you requested:

Table 1: Gross NPA Ratio of Indian Banks (2018-2020)

YearGross NPA Ratio
This table shows the Gross NPA Ratio of Indian banks for the years 2018 to 2020, indicating a decline in the ratio from 2018 to 2019, followed by a slight increase in 2020.

The Impact of NPAs on the Common Man

Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the banking sector not only affect the financial institutions but also have a direct impact on individuals. The consequences of NPAs on the common man can be broadly categorized into two major areas:

  1. Higher interest rates: To compensate for the losses incurred due to NPAs, banks may increase the interest rates on loans. This increase in borrowing costs affects individuals in multiple ways. For instance, higher interest rates make it more expensive for individuals to finance purchases such as homes, vehicles, or other consumer goods. Additionally, higher interest rates can also lead to increased costs for businesses, which may, in turn, result in higher prices for goods and services, ultimately affecting the common man’s purchasing power.
  2. Reduced credit availability: As NPAs increase, banks become more cautious in their lending practices to minimize the risk of further bad loans. This cautious approach results in a reduced availability of credit for businesses and individuals, making it more difficult for people to secure loans. This reduced access to credit can have several consequences for the common man:
    • Delayed or canceled projects: Reduced credit availability may lead to the delay or cancellation of infrastructure projects, housing developments, or other investments, which can affect job creation and overall economic growth.
    • Impact on small businesses and entrepreneurs: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs often rely on bank loans to fund their operations or expand their businesses. Reduced credit availability can hinder the growth of these businesses, affecting the livelihoods of their owners and employees.
    • Strain on personal finances: Individuals may face challenges in securing loans for various purposes, such as education, home renovation, or medical emergencies. This reduced access to credit can strain personal finances and limit the financial flexibility of the common man.

The impact of NPAs on the common man is multifaceted, affecting both borrowing costs and credit availability. Addressing the issue of NPAs is crucial not only for the stability and growth of the banking sector but also for the financial well-being of individuals and the overall health of the economy.

Real-Life Examples and Scenarios

Real-life examples and scenarios of NPA cases in India provide insights into the complexities and challenges faced by the banking sector. Here are a few notable cases:

  1. Kingfisher Airlines: Owned by Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines was once India’s second-largest airline. However, the company faced financial difficulties and defaulted on loans worth over INR 9,000 crores, making it one of the most high-profile NPA cases in India. The banks involved in the lending consortium, including the State Bank of India (SBI), have been trying to recover the outstanding dues through legal proceedings.
  2. Bhushan Steel: Bhushan Steel, a leading steel manufacturer, had accumulated debt of about INR 44,000 crores. The company was referred to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in 2017. In a landmark resolution, Tata Steel acquired Bhushan Steel through its subsidiary Bamnipal Steel Ltd in 2018, helping banks recover a significant portion of their loans.
  3. Essar Steel: Essar Steel, another major steel manufacturer, had defaulted on loans worth INR 49,000 crores. The company was referred to the NCLT under the IBC, and after a long legal battle, ArcelorMittal, one of the world’s leading steel companies, acquired Essar Steel in 2019. This acquisition helped banks recover a substantial amount of the outstanding debt.
  4. Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS): IL&FS, a major infrastructure development and finance company, defaulted on its debt obligations in 2018, resulting in a crisis in the Indian financial sector. The company had accumulated debt of over INR 90,000 crores, and its default led to a liquidity crunch in the non-banking financial sector. The government of India took control of IL&FS and initiated a resolution process to recover the outstanding debt.
  5. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications (RCom): RCom, a major telecom company, defaulted on loans worth over INR 45,000 crores. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019, and the resolution process is ongoing under the IBC. Banks are still in the process of recovering their dues from the company.

These real-life examples of NPA cases in India highlight the challenges faced by banks in recovering their dues and the importance of robust regulatory frameworks, such as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, in addressing the issue of NPAs in the Indian banking sector.

Tips and Advice for Dealing with NPAs

Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) can have significant consequences for the banking sector and the economy as a whole. To minimize the risk of contributing to NPAs, individuals can follow these tips and advice:

  1. Borrow responsibly and within your repayment capacity: Before taking out a loan, assess your financial situation and determine whether you can comfortably repay the loan within the stipulated time. Consider factors such as your income, existing debts, and future financial commitments. By borrowing responsibly, you can avoid overextending yourself and reduce the risk of defaulting on your loan payments.
  2. Prioritize loan repayments and avoid defaulting on payments: Make a plan to repay your loans on time and prioritize these payments in your budget. Timely loan repayments not only help you avoid becoming an NPA but also contribute to maintaining a healthy credit score. If you face financial difficulties and are unable to make a payment, contact your lender to discuss potential solutions, such as restructuring your loan or extending the repayment period.
  3. Maintain a good credit score by making timely payments and avoiding excessive debt: A good credit score is essential for securing loans at favorable interest rates and can also impact your ability to rent an apartment or secure a job. To maintain a good credit score, make timely payments on all your credit accounts, including loans and credit cards. Keep your credit utilization ratio low by not using too much of your available credit, and avoid taking on excessive debt that may strain your finances.
  4. Stay informed about the terms and conditions of your loans: Understand the terms and conditions of your loans, including interest rates, repayment schedules, and any penalties for late payments or early repayment. This knowledge will help you manage your loans effectively and avoid any surprises that may lead to financial difficulties.
  5. Create an emergency fund: Establish an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, such as medical emergencies or job loss. Having a financial safety net can help you avoid relying on loans during difficult times and reduce the risk of defaulting on your existing loan payments.
  6. Monitor your credit report regularly: Regularly review your credit report to ensure it accurately reflects your borrowing history and identify any errors or potential fraud. Monitoring your credit report can help you stay on top of your financial health and address any issues that may impact your credit score.

By following these tips and advice, individuals can minimize their risk of contributing to NPAs and maintain a healthy financial profile. Responsible borrowing and timely repayment of loans not only benefit the individual borrower but also contribute to the stability and growth of the banking sector and the broader economy.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

How do NPAs affect banks?

NPAs can have several adverse effects on banks, including reduced profitability, increased provisioning requirements, higher capital requirements, and negative impacts on their reputation and credit rating.

What is provisioning in the context of NPAs?

Provisioning is the process of setting aside funds by banks to cover potential losses arising from NPAs. Banks are required to make provisions for NPAs to maintain their financial stability and comply with regulatory requirements.

How are NPAs recovered by banks?

Banks can recover NPAs through various methods, such as debt restructuring, asset reconstruction, selling the collateral, or initiating legal proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) or other relevant laws.

What is the impact of NPAs on the economy?

High levels of NPAs can negatively impact the economy by reducing the availability of credit, increasing borrowing costs, delaying investments, and hampering overall economic growth.

What are the causes of NPAs?

The causes of NPAs can be broadly categorized into macroeconomic factors (economic slowdown, policy changes), industry-specific factors (overcapacity, demand fluctuations), and borrower-specific factors (financial mismanagement, fraud, lack of adequate collateral).

What is the difference between Gross NPA and Net NPA?

Gross NPA refers to the total value of all NPAs in a bank’s loan portfolio, while Net NPA is the Gross NPA minus the provisions made for NPAs. Net NPA provides a more accurate representation of a bank’s actual exposure to bad loans, as it takes into account the provisions set aside to cover potential losses.


In conclusion, grasping the concept of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) and their implications on the Indian economy is crucial for individuals, businesses, and policymakers alike. NPAs can significantly affect the health of the banking sector, the availability of credit, and overall economic growth. By adopting responsible borrowing practices and staying informed about the current trends and developments in the NPA landscape, we can all play a role in fostering a more resilient banking sector and a thriving economy.

As individuals, it is essential that we manage our finances wisely, borrow within our means, and prioritize timely loan repayments. By doing so, we not only protect our credit scores but also contribute to the stability of the financial system.

Businesses, on the other hand, should focus on effective risk management, financial planning, and maintaining transparent communication with lenders to avoid falling into the NPA trap. A strong partnership between borrowers and lenders can go a long way in mitigating the risks associated with NPAs.

Furthermore, policymakers and regulatory authorities need to continuously monitor the NPA situation and implement measures to address the root causes of the problem. This may include refining lending guidelines, enhancing the legal framework for resolving stressed assets, and promoting financial literacy among the population.

Ultimately, the collective efforts of all stakeholders – individuals, businesses, and regulators – can pave the way for a financially secure future. By working together, we can help minimize the adverse effects of NPAs on the economy and ensure that the Indian banking sector remains a robust engine of growth for years to come. Let’s take charge of our financial decisions and work towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.

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