Under the helm of its first woman chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya, India’s largest bank, State Bank of India, is undergoing a stunning makeover
10/1/2015 10:26:22 AM
|written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla|
One industry’s loss has turned into a double whammy gain for another one. Few know that the most powerful banker in India, Arundhati Bhattacharya, once wanted to become a journalist.
She might well have become a media maven as her path seemed to be cut out for a role in the press during her undergraduate days in Lady Brabourne College, Calcutta where she read English Literature.
Fate, however, intervened when she was a post-graduate student, in the form of a wager among her friends who playfully challenged each other to sit for the stiff all-India competitive examination for recruitment as management trainees (Probationary Officers) in the State Bank Of India, India’s largest bank and a proxy for the Indian economy.
“I went along because of a bet among my hostel mates. Six of us sat for the exam. For preparation we read a few issues of a popular journal used for preparing for exams said Bhattacharya, who was recently listed among the 30 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine, a position hard won and well deserved, say those close to her who are aware of the daunting personal challenges she has faced that would have felled a lesser person.
Bhattacharya who was in Singapore recently, along with India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, to attend a financial summit is clearly as sanguine about her exalted position now as she was about her chances at landing a coveted job in SBI as a 21-year-old, as is evident in the adroitness with which she handles the flotilla of reporters trailing her. “It wasn’t my first choice but once I started studying English it seemed to be the natural choice for a career,” offered Bhattacharya who also has a post-graduate degree in English Literature from Calcutta’s Jadavpur University. At 59 years, she is also the youngest chairman of SBI and the first woman to lead an India-based Fortune 500 company.
It’s been only a year-and-a-half since she took over as chairman but under her helm the country’s oldest and largest lender is fast transforming from a staid state-run bank into a customer-friendly one. Methodically and systematically she is leading a makeover in areas where she has been able to chip away at resistance such as its back-office functions and loan recovery.