The story of HSBC India: An epic journey of over 160 years

By Jaswinder Sodhi, Head of Customers & Marketing, HSBC India

Brand Blueprint

The origin of HSBC in India dates back to 1853, more than 160 years ago, when the Mercantile Bank of India, London and China was founded in Mumbai (then Bombay). By 1855, the Mercantile Bank had successfully opened offices and was operating in London, Chennai (then Madras), Colombo, Italy, Kandy, Kolkata (then Calcutta), Singapore, Hong Kong, Guangzhou (then Canton), and Shanghai. In 1950, it moved into its new head office building at Flora Fountain in Mumbai. It was then bought in 1959 by HSBC to serve the needs of Chinese merchants and the flourishing trade between China, Europe, and the US. Since then, HSBC has been active in the development of the Indian banking industry – even giving India its first ATM in 1987.

For more than 150 years, it has weathered change in all forms – revolutions, economic crises, new technologies – and adapted to survive and serve. HSBC has steadily grown in reach and service offerings; keeping pace with the evolving banking and financial needs of its customers. In India, HSBC offers a comprehensive suite of world-class products and services to its corporate and commercial banking clients as also to a fast-growing personal banking customer base. HSBC has 26 branches across fourteen cities in India, offering a premium banking experience to its customers. Today, in its 160th year of serving its customers in India, HSBC has emerged as one of the largest foreign banks in the country.

Ever since its inception, HSBC has always believed in ‘how we do business is just as important as what we do’. And the Bank’s values are at the core of achieving this aim. HSBC’s values – to be dependable, open to different ideas and cultures, and staying connected to customers, communities, regulators and each other reflect the best aspects of the Bank’s heritage and remain integral to its long-term success. Seen as the key symbols of HSBC, the HSBC lions represent strength, security, and stability that the Bank offers to its customers.

Brand Connect

Despite being present in India since 1853, HSBC Bank is seen by many as ‘a bank for wealthy foreigners’. It’s a challenger bank that faced a multi-pronged marketing challenge.

  • It was not a bank in the Indian millennials consideration set
  • A worrying slide in ‘Brand Power’
  • Address both the above challenges without big-bang media budgets

Fortunately, HSBC Bank, has key values that helped pave a way forward within these difficult circumstances – values of being Open, Connected and Dependable. These same values that hold prime importance in the minds of the Indian urban millennial today.

We needed to drive Brand Salience so Indian urban millennial between 25 to 45 years would place us in their consideration set. In order to achieve the same, we launched an integrated multi-channel, multi-product campaign to reposition HSBC Bank in 2020.

Our Campaign: ‘India, Beyond Boundaries’

Our campaign – ‘India, Beyond Boundaries’ aimed at breaking various kinds of stereotypes around matters related to

• Diversity and inclusion,
• Career,
• Body image issues
• Women empowerment, among others.

It aimed to place HSBC Bank front and center as a brand that stands for and embraces the idea of a progressive and forward-thinking India. ‘India, Beyond Boundaries’ celebrates the bold and confident new India that is determined to break taboos and stray off the scripted path in search of personal, and indeed financial growth. It embodies openness towards rewriting traditions and embracing change, in the pursuit of opening ourselves towards learning and growth. It exhorts the audience to transcend the mental boundaries that limit their progress.

This campaign worked as an effective tool for HSBC to make an impact – not just on the brand image and business numbers, but also on Indian millennials – by shining a spotlight on their thoughts and beliefs, celebrating them in all their glory.

The campaign strengthens people’s belief in a world free from limitations of ‘traditional’ expectations, stereotypes and orthodoxy. It encourages going beyond every mental boundary that stands between the urban Indian millennial and their growth.

Through ‘India, Beyond Boundaries’, HSBC positioned itself as one for the progressives and the millennials. A brand that is a part of a rapidly changing society where tradition meets new definitions of what it means to prosper.

‘India, Beyond Boundaries’ generated debate and conversations with its new Stereotype-shattering tone of voice that celebrates the mindset of a new India. Where other brands in the category limit their communication to products and services, India Beyond boundaries has held a mirror to urban Indian millennials – resonating with their mindset of transcending cultural stereotypes, break societal barriers and rewriting the rules. This campaign was conceptualized to make an impact on local communities and generate conversations to celebrate thoughts and beliefs of the new India (‘India, beyond boundaries’).

The campaign uses visually arresting images & innovative media choices to take on relevant societal issues like body shaming, conventional career options, LGBT rights to challenge the orthodox point of view and encourage going beyond every mental boundary that stands between the urban Indian millennial and their growth. The images were carefully selected to stand out and break the clutter having a strong expression that conveys the essence of the message. The hexagon is a brand asset and our objective was to make it stand out in our creatives. With a Red Hexagon piercing through the creative and a strong expression emerging from it – we achieved this objective. As an industry’s first, a triangular front page advertorial was released in the Economic Times – to announce the launch of going beyond the boundaries of the shape of a usual Ad.

 Art of Irresistible

One of the world’s largest and most reputable banking institutions, with presence in 64 countries and territories across the globe HSBC has always stayed cognizant of changing times and continued adapting to the customers’ new-age horizons time after time. But there’s more to HSBC than just its global footprint.

Spearheading the evolution from traditional to new-age banking, HSBC introduced ATMs to India and also executed its first-of-its-kind blockchain trade finance transaction. The bank has always stayed at the forefront of innovation and excellence. With India gradually evolving into a global native, it has cohesively catered to India’s refreshed identity with a wide spectrum of bespoke services from its three core business verticals – Global Banking and Markets, Commercial Banking and Wealth and Personal Banking.

With over 40,000 employees in India, HSBC also operates its global service centre and software development in India, providing industry-leading fintech services from HSBC’s global ecosystem. It also works with grassroot non-profit organisations across the country, investing Rs. 100 Crore annually, also focusing on skill development for youth, women empowerment through entrepreneurship, improving access to finance for the unbanked and addressing climate change. All of these showcase HSBC’s global character and footprint, making it a bank with a legacy that’s deep-rooted in India, taking it beyond boundaries.


Keeping pace with changing times and expectations, HSBC recently launched its Video KYC platform where customers can complete the KYC for account onboarding in a paperless and contactless manner through a simple video interaction.

With growing customer preference towards mobile phones as their preferred channel of interaction, HSBC India Mobile Platform has been enhanced with features like registration directly on mobile and the unique Digital Secure Key to ensure secure transactions. The platform also enables real-time transactions, application for EMIs and resetting Credit Card PIN for additional credit card customers, in just a few taps from their mobile device. The bank also has authenticated Chat functionality both on its browser and mobile platform so customers can reach out to the bank for any support needed without having to call the contact center.

Jaswinder Sodhi, Head of Customers & Marketing, HSBC India

Leadership Quote

The pace of change is enormous, wherever you are in the world today. These changes constantly redefine what it means to be a bank and how it can create value for all those it serves. HSBC desires to be clearer than ever about its purpose in the world, and about the core values that will guide the bank as it opens up a world of opportunities for everyone.

The bank’s purpose is a simple, yet powerful, reminder of why HSBC is here and where it’s going. Its meanings are both practical and inspirational; literal and symbolic. It believes in connecting people, ideas and capital, crossing borders and boundaries with an optimistic, future-facing attitude. HSBC endeavours to overcome every obstacle to provide its customers with beautiful possibilities. These very qualities distinguish the bank globally and can also be interpreted at many levels.

HSBC is committed to serving its customers with a complete ecosystem of products and services. Its worldwide footprint and range of expertise enables unrivalled access to growth and expansion for customers, colleagues, and shareholders. The bank takes pride in its attitude of optimism and value-creation, and a spirit of entrepreneurship which are ingrained in its ethos.

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