“The capacity to learn is a GIFT.
The ability to learn is a SKILL.
The willingness to learn is a CHOICE.”
This is one of the favourite quotes of Arundati Bhattacharya, the woman who went on to become the first woman chairperson of India’s largest bank – State Bank of India(SBI). Arundhati Bhattacharya was born on March 18, 1956, in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Her father, Prodyut Kumar Mukherjee, was an engineer at ‘Bokaro Steel Plant,’ and her mother, Kalyani Mukherjee, was a homeopathy consultant. She completed her schooling at ‘St. Xavier’s School’ in Bokaro and then studied English literature at ‘Lady Brabourne College’ in Kolkata. She completed her graduation from ‘Jadavpur University’ in Kolkata.
Since her childhood, Bhattacharya was inclined towards journalism and aspired to become a journalist. However, in 1977, she decided to sit for the SBI probationary officer exam and cracked the exam; this marked the beginning of her career in the banking sector. In her four-decade journey with SBI, she brought about several revolutionary changes in the bank and under whose leadership the bank transformed from a state-run lender to a customer-friendly bank. She served in various bank departments, including foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resource, and investment banking. In 2013, she succeeded Pratip Chaudhari in becoming the first woman chairperson of the State Bank of India. SBI’s growth accelerated during her leadership as she introduced many decisive measures. She had been involved with the launch of several new businesses such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services, SBI Pension Funds Pvt. Ltd., and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund. Bhattacharya also introduced several pro-women policies for SBI employees, such as a two-year sabbatical leave policy for the bank’s female employees to use for maternity or elder care and free vaccination for cervical cancer to all the female employees of the SBI.
Arundhati shares some of the valuable life lessons which she learned during her career, which are stated as follows:
- Team Management: A good team and a well-executed strategy will help you win every single time. It doesn’t matter how small you are or how late you are with the idea.
- Enhance the efficiency of a good team: It is the leader’s job to determine the team members’ strengths and hence position them in a place to play to their strengths.
- Make tough decisions: Throughout your career, you have to make tough decisions; you never know if these are the right things or the wrong things, but if your team play is good on the home-front and work-front, then the burden never becomes too heavy.
- Be grounded: Always remain grounded because someone will always step in your role and do a better job than you did. If you are grounded, you become easily accessible to people, which means you get to hear things that you need to hear and not necessarily the things you want to hear. If these things are taken in the right spirit, it will improve the efficiency and productivity of your team.
- Be a learner throughout your life: Never stop the process of learning. Learn from people who are trying to excel in the job they are doing. Approach every situation with a questioning mind and a learners’ humility.
- Love your work: Love what you do because in a long career, sometimes you’ll feel challenged, sometimes energised, sometimes exhilarated, and at times demotivated. You cannot keep up your energy in such situations and give your best if you aren’t passionate about your job. It’s a beautiful thing when your career and passion come together because that will help you survive throughout your career.
In 2016, Forbes listed Bhattacharya as the 25th most powerful woman in the world, courtesy of her hard work, intelligence, and diligence. She was ranked as the fourth most powerful woman in the Asia-Pacific region by Fortune magazine. In 2017, India Today magazine ranked her at the 19th position in India’s 50 most powerful people, and in 2018, she was named Business Leader of the Year at The Asian Awards.
She is currently serving as the chairman and CEO of Sales Force India.