Dubai: India's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) is looking to expand its presence in the Gulf region, a senior bank official said.
"We are there in a big way, but Kuwait is the only GCC country where we don't have a branch," Hemant Contractor, Managing Director of SBI told a Kuwait news agency during a visit to Belgium.
The Indian banking sector plays a very important role for trade and finance in the Gulf region and the Middle East and State Bank of India (SBI) is seeking to increase its presence abroad, he said.
He said the UAE is India's largest trading partner in the Gulf and ties between the Gulf region and India are "very, very strong".
SBI recently opened two new branches in the Gulf region -- one in Saudi Arabia and one in Qatar -- as a part of its plans to expand operations abroad.
The bank is present in 34 countries across the world and has 170 branches in those countries. It has 14 branches in Europe, including 10 in the UK and one each in Belgium, Germany and France, along with a representative office in Italy.
The branch in the Belgian city of Antwerp is SBI's fifth largest branch.
Asked about the effect of ban of import of Iran oil to Europe on India's economy, Contractor said, "India does import oil from Iran in a big way and ever since the last one year this has become a major issue because of the restrictions imposed both by the US and now also the EU on import of oil from Iran.
"So, Indian oil companies have tried to find out alternate sources of fuel supply and reduce dependence on Iran. It will involve some pain initially but I think they will have to look at other alternatives for supply of oil. They are tapping other sources in the Gulf."