Arundhati Bhattacharya, a trailblazing figure in the world of finance, has left an indelible mark on India's banking industry. As the first woman to assume the role of Chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI), her journey is nothing short of remarkable. Let's explore the life and career of this influential leader.
Arundhati Bhattacharya was born into a Bengali family in Kolkata and spent her formative 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 pursuit of knowledge led her to study English literature at Lady Brabourne College in Calcutta and later at Jadavpur University. Her academic prowess and curiosity were evident even in her early years.
Arundhati Bhattacharya's personal life is closely intertwined with academia and intellect. Her husband, Pritimoy Bhattacharya, is an ex-professor at IIT Kharagpur. This union of two accomplished minds reflects her commitment to both personal and professional growth.
Arundhati Bhattacharya commenced her illustrious career with the State Bank of India in September 1977, joining as a Probationary Officer at the age of just 22.
Over the course of 36 years with the bank, she held various key positions, showcasing her versatility and acumen in diverse fields, including foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resources, and investment banking.
One of her notable roles was as the chief executive of the bank's merchant banking arm, State Bank of India Capital Markets.
Her contributions extended to 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.
In 2013, Arundhati Bhattacharya succeeded Pratip Chaudhuri as Chairman, making her the first woman to lead an India-based Fortune India 500 company.
During her tenure, she introduced progressive policies, such as a two-year sabbatical leave for female employees for maternity or elder care and free cervical cancer vaccinations for female employees on International Women's Day.
Under her leadership, Axis Bank gained global recognition, with Forbes ranking her as the 25th most powerful woman in the world in 2016, her first time on the list. She also earned accolades from Foreign Policy magazine, which named her among the FP Top 100 Global Thinkers.
In 2017, India Today magazine ranked her 19th on the list of India's 50 Most Powerful People, a testament to her enduring influence in the corporate world.
Arundhati Bhattacharya's tenure was marked by the merger of SBI's five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank, a decision that was pivotal in addressing rising non-performing assets.
In 2018, she received the Business Leader of the Year award at The Asian Awards. Notably, she assumed the role of Chairperson and Chief Executive for the India division of Salesforce, a global CRM giant, in 2020.
In January 2022, Arundhati Bhattacharya released her autobiography, titled "Indomitable: A Working Woman's Notes on Work, Life, and Leadership," published by HarperCollins.
The book provides insights into her career, experiences, and perspectives as a woman working in a male-dominated industry. She also shares anecdotes from her childhood, early education, college life, and her journey into the State Bank of India.
Arundhati Bhattacharya's contributions have not gone unnoticed. She received the prestigious "Sera Bangali" – Serar Sera Award in 2015 from Anandabazar Patrika, recognising her remarkable achievements.
Currently, Arundhati Bhattacharya 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, part of a global payments network.
Her legacy continues to inspire future leaders, especially women, to break barriers and excel in their respective fields.
Arundhati Bhattacharya's remarkable journey from a young banker to a global corporate leader is a testament to her unwavering dedication, intellect, and leadership skills. Her life story serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for generations to come.