In October 2013, both SBI and Arundhati Bhattacharya made headlines when she was announced as the first woman chairperson of the organisation. There is no accurate measurement for success, but being the first and the only one in your field is a definitive sign of it. She had a career spanning 40 years in SBI and has continued to excel even after retiring.
Let’s take a look at the Life of Arundhati Bhattacharya and the benchmark she set for success:
Arundhati Bhattacharya - Career in SBI
In an interview with Economic Times, Arundhati Bhattacharya spoke in length and detail about her long career with SBI. She memorably remarked, regarding her longevity in the profession, “I think I survived the job for so long because I was learning every day. I took on roles in retail, corporate, large corporate, treasury, new businesses, HR and investment banking, among others.”
Arundhati Bhattacharya - Beginning in SBI
Arundhati Bhattacharya Joined SBI as a 21-year-old. In 1977, she was appointed in the position of a probationary officer. At that time, she worked in the Alipore branch of West Bengal. She recalls her starting days fondly at the bank. She also remembers how difficult it was to do things without computers those days. And the fact that she got Corns on her fingers trying to enter everything manually.
After her probationary duty ended, she was posted in Kolkata in the post of a junior management grade-1 level. She says that here she learnt how to handle court cases. In 1983 she was moved to the Kharagpur branch, and there she met her husband, Pritimoy Bhattacharya.
Marriage, Motherhood, and Career: Her husband, Pritimoy Bhattacharya, is a former professor of IIT Kharagpur. Both were busy and career-oriented folks, so when child rearing got added into the mix, things got increasingly challenging. She recalls that when she was posted in the US branch, one out of the four years she worked there, she was separated from her daughter. She says it was emotionally draining for her to be away from her child for so long. So, so she decided to take her daughter everywhere, she was transferred after that.
In 2006, when she was to transfer to Lucknow, she seriously contemplated giving up. She was afraid she wouldn’t find a school that adequately catered to her daughter’s special needs. But encouragement from a colleague and the support system she had built from work helped her out and kept her from quitting.
Timeline of the posts she held in SBI:
- 1. 1977: Probationary Officer, Alipore, West Bengal.
- 2. The late 70s to early 80s: Junior Management Grade-1 level, Kolkata.
- Also worked in the Bank Guarantees Section
- Was later posted in the head office Kolkata
- 3. 1983: Transferred to Kharagpur and worked nine years there. She was promoted three times in this course and left as an Assistant Manager.
- 4. 1987: Branch Manager, Nimpura, West Bengal.
- 5. 1993: Commercial Branch, Kolkata.
- 6. 1996: Vice President Branch Co-ordination, USA.
- 7. 2001: Foreign Department, Kolkata.
- 8. 2006: Transferred to Lucknow for a short period.
- 9. 2008: Transferred to Mumbai as General Manager and was shortly promoted to Chief General Manager.
- 10. 2011: MD of Human Resources, Mumbai.
- 11. 2013: Chairperson of The State Bank of India, Mumbai.
Her accomplishments as a Chairperson:
- Successfully handled the demonetisation period.
- Improved digital banking with the e-wallet SBI Buddy
- Handled a large scale merger with five associate banks including the Bharatiya Mahila Bank, landing SBI among the 50 most powerful banks globally,
- Developed a good relation with RBI and the Finance Ministry of India,
- Arundhati Bhattacharya introduced a two-year sabbatical leave policy for SBI’s female employees, which could be used for maternity leave or family care.
- Arundhati Bhattacharya also announced free vaccination against cervical cancer for female employees.
- She has been involved with new SBI businesses like:
- SBI General Insurance
- SBI Custodial Services
- SBI Pension Funds Pvt. Ltd.
- SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund
In April 2020, she joined Salesforce as the chairperson and the chief executive of their Indian operations. When asked about why she decided to join the American CRM giant, she commented that their philanthropic initiatives and cutting edge technology were some factors that attracted her. The thing that truly motivated her to join was that she was always a “little bit of a sucker for a challenge”.
In this interview with Times of India, Arundhati Roy also assured that hiring her was a way for Salesforce to show that they are getting serious about India. And their previous policy of directly reporting to founder and CEO Marc Benioff for all actions were no longer viable. She said, “It [hiring her] indicates a commitment from the Salesforce management that we are here for good, and we want to scale this.”In addition to that:
- She also holds the position of chairperson in SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) India.
- In 2018, she joined the board of Reliance Industries Ltd. as a Non-Executive Director, and she holds that position to date.
Arundhati Bhattacharya has had a wonderfully eventful career, and by the looks of it, she isn’t going to stop any time soon. In addition to fulfilling her dreams and achieving her goals, she has also become a valuable representation of female workers. As she takes on these new challenges and navigates the crucial period of the pandemic, her admirers can’t help but wish her luck and eagerly wait for her next move.