Arundhati Bhattacharya Shows Us That Being a CEO Means Lifelong Learning

Meet Arundhati Bhattachar the former CEO of SBI, the current chairperson of Salesforce, India, a banker turned author inspiring young people!

Arundhati Bhattacharya, the Mighty Thor, broke the glass ceiling when she became the first female chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI) in 2013. She is the former CEO of SBI, and the current CEO and chairperson of Salesforce, India, and an author of an insightful memoir, Indomitable.

With more than 40 years of experience in the financial sector, Bhattacharya strode and thrived in a male-dominated industry. With a degree in English Literature, Arundhati never in her wildest dreams  thought of a career in the banking sector.

It isn’t surprising that Bhattacharya wanted to become a journalist, considering she graduated with a degree in English Literature.

Call it a stroke of luck, but Bhattacharya took up the entrance exam for SBI and cracked it. It was the universe’s way of indicating that Bhattacharya would bring changes and pave the way for women in the banking industry. 

Arundhati Bhattacharya was the boss this bank needed!

Bhattacharya joined the SBI in 1977 at the age of 22; she thought getting a job in SBI bank was a sheer chance.

Her SBI career was four decades long, and she worked in several departments, namely; retail, corporate, human resource, treasury, investment banking and new businesses.

Before retiring from SBI in 2017, Bhattacharya transformed SBI from a state-run bank to a customer-friendly bank. Her futuristic thinking led her to be one of the best employees and eventually a boss in the bank.

In Indomitable, Arundhati explains her journey

Indomitable: A Working Woman’s Notes On Life, Work and Leadership, is a memoir by Arundhati Bhattacharya released earlier this January.

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Photo credits: Goodreads

Bhattacharya takes us through her journey from a newly independent India to New York and back home. She talks about her life in her hometown, Bhilai, on the outskirts of Kolkata, and how she dared to dream. She gives us a humane story of a working woman’s struggle to find a footing in a male-dominated society and industry while tightly clutching onto her daughter.

Arundhati’s book captures the life of a mother who had to balance her career in one arm and her daughter in another. Lastly, it is about a CEO that brought in a storm of changes to India’s oldest working bank, SBI.

Becoming the chairperson of a 210-year-old institution!

In 2013, Bhattacharya finally became the first female chairperson of one of the oldest governmental bodies in India. Being the chairperson was just the start, as she had a vision of changing the face of the company.

An article on McKinsey and Company states how Arundhati introduced new appraisal systems. These involved budgets, targets, and digital initiatives like digital-only branches and mobile apps for customers.

Moreover, in 2016, Forbes ranked her 25th out of 100 most powerful women and 5th most powerful woman in finance.

After retirement, a well-deserved break awaited her…

In an interview with Business Today, Arundhati talks about what she did after she retired in 2017. She said:

‘Also, during that one year of gardening leave that we are required to take after you retire from the bank, I had been talking a lot to younger generations. And most of them asked me, “What’s our future going to be like?”

And I told them, “It’s not going to be the same as mine, you’ll have multiple careers, and you need to be able to unlearn, relearn, keep learning all the time.”’

Arundhati believes that one should never stop learning. Someone who continuously learns — even multiple things — is much wealthier because of their abundance of knowledge.

Back in the business as the chairperson and CEO of Salesforce, India

When Arundhati got the chance to join Salesforce as their chairperson and CEO, she thought — why not? It was Bhattacharya’s golden ticket to have multiple careers. In the interview with Business Today, she states:

“When I got the Salesforce opportunity, I told myself that I’ve been giving a lot of gyaan — a lot of advice. Here was a chance to do it myself, to have multiple careers.”

Moreover, Salesforce’s Chairman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO: Marc Benioff gave her a book, Trailblazer, which played a major role in her decision.

The book had two stories about Salesforce — one talked about paying municipal taxes to eradicate homelessness. The other talked about an audit Salesforce did to check that there was no gender pay gap in the company.

Arundhati Bhattacharya is an inspiration to many

Arundahti Bhattacharya rode from bottom to the top; she is one of the most influential people in India. Many young women in this country and other parts of the world want to establish a career in banking. Her story is a lesson that someone with no prior knowledge can enter the banking industry, learn the trade and bring revolutionary changes. She is an example of what it takes to not give up and take the plunge.

You can  read an excerpt and find the book on Amazon.

Image Source: Goodreads via Canva Pro

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About the Author

Pranjali Hasotkar

I am a journalism student with a penchant for writing about women and social issues. I am an intersectional feminist and an aspiring journalist. I identify as she/her. read more...

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