Arundhati Bhattacharya: Shattering Ceilings in Indian Banking
Arundhati Bhattacharya, a pioneering force in the financial world, has etched an enduring legacy in India’s banking sector. As the first woman to ascend to the role of Chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI), her journey stands as a testament to resilience and achievement. Let’s delve into the life and career of this influential leader.
Early Years and Educational Pursuits
Arundhati Bhattacharya, born into a Bengali family in Kolkata, spent her early years in Bhilai and Bokaro Steel City. Her father, Prodyut Kumar Mukherjee, worked at Bokaro Steel Plant, while her mother, Kalyani Mukherjee, was a respected homoeopathy consultant in Bokaro. Arundhati completed her schooling at St. Xavier’s School, Bokaro.
Her academic journey led her to Lady Brabourne College in Calcutta, followed by Jadavpur University, where she pursued English literature. Her intellectual prowess and curiosity were evident even in her formative years.
Arundhati Bhattacharya’s personal life intertwines with academia, as her husband, Pritimoy Bhattacharya, is an ex-professor at IIT Kharagpur. This union reflects her commitment to both personal and professional growth.
A Distinguished Career
Arundhati Bhattacharya embarked on her illustrious journey with the State Bank of India in 1977, joining as a Probationary Officer at the age of 22. Over 36 years with the bank, she held key positions in diverse fields, including foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resources, and investment banking.
Noteworthy was her role as the chief executive of the bank’s merchant banking arm, State Bank of India Capital Markets. Her contributions extended to launching several new businesses, such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services, SBI Pension Funds Pvt. Ltd., and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund.
In 2013, Arundhati Bhattacharya became the first woman to lead an India-based Fortune India 500 company, succeeding Pratip Chaudhuri as Chairman. During her tenure, she introduced progressive policies, including a two-year sabbatical leave for female employees and free cervical cancer vaccinations for female employees on International Women’s Day.
Under her leadership, Forbes ranked her as the 25th most powerful woman globally in 2016, and Foreign Policy magazine recognised her among the FP Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2017, India Today magazine placed her 19th on the list of India’s 50 Most Powerful People. Her legacy includes steering the merger of SBI’s five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank, a strategic move to address non-performing assets.
In 2018, she received the Business Leader of the Year award at The Asian Awards. Notably, in 2020, Arundhati Bhattacharya assumed the role of Chairperson and Chief Executive for the India division of Salesforce, a global CRM giant.
Authoring Her Journey
In January 2022, Arundhati Bhattacharya released her autobiography, “Indomitable: A Working Woman’s Notes on Work, Life, and Leadership,” offering insights into her career, experiences, and perspectives as a woman in a male-dominated industry. The book delves into her childhood, early education, college life, and her transformative journey within the State Bank of India.
Awards and Legacy
Arundhati Bhattacharya’s achievements have earned her recognition, including the “Sera Bangali” – Serar Sera Award in 2015 from Anandabazar Patrika. Currently, she serves as a Non-Executive Director with Reliance Industries Limited, Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Sambalpur, and Chairperson of SWIFT India.
Her legacy continues to inspire future leaders, especially women, to break barriers and excel in their respective fields. Arundhati Bhattacharya’s journey from a young banker to a global corporate leader exemplifies unwavering dedication, intellect, and leadership, offering a beacon of hope and empowerment for generations to come.