I was tempted! Not that he asked.... but! Here we are at the Bangalore Lit Fest, on our way to the stage to felicitate Hari Prasad Chaurasia - the world's greatest living flautist. And that's Vikram Sampath, a key organiser of the BILF.
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror today...
Meet the ‘QSQT’ lady….
Arundhati Bhattacharya created banking history earlier this week when she was elevated to an exceptional position : She became the first woman to head the 206-year-old State Bank of India. This makes the 57-year-old banker one of the most powerful people – people , not woman – in the world. As someone who has already featured on the prestigious Fortune 500 list, all eyes will be on Ms. Bhattacharya as she confronts the monumental challenges ahead. She has just three short years to tackle the bloated problem of bad loans besides overseeing the operations of a staggering 15,000 SBI branches . How did she attain this position? Well – the old-fashioned way! She worked hard for 36 long years.The appointment involved a tedious process. In the final round, she beat three others vying for the coveted post during the interview, and was anointed by the prime minister himself. For someone who joined the bank as a lowly probationary officer in 1977, her rise to the top of the pile has been steady and rock solid. During her uninterrupted career with SBI, she has, of course,held positions of enormous responsibility in different capacities and been a part of breakthrough launches in related businesses. The quote she is best known for is catchy and unexpected. She advised people in the financial sector to get out of the “QSQT culture”. In other words, to break out of the “ Quarter Se Quarter Tak” mentality and look at the bigger picture. Married to a chartered accountant, Arundhati has been a low key professional in an era of over hyped success stories. While it is indeed remarkable that it is only in India that we so many women heading gigantic banks ( eight, at last count), should one be going into a euphoric trance over this highly privileged ladies club which is being cutely referred to as “Lehman Sisters”? Why not? Goes one argument. Every single woman in this league is there because she has earned that corner office. Interestingly enough, nearly all these accomplished ladies fall into the “conventional” , and dare I say it, even ‘homely’ category. They are a far cry from the heavily caricatured career demons projected in American sit coms. Our ladies don’t need to climb into unflattering business suits and drink beer with the boys at a friendly neighbourhood bar. They appear graceful and relaxed in bright and beautiful sarees, as they negotiate shark infested waters with aplomb, without having to change their body language or yell the competition down. Yes, they are tough. Theirs jobs demand teeth and talons. But the ones I know are endearingly soft spoken and don’t need to flaunt a ‘take me seriously’ fake attitude. This is what separates the girls from the women.
If only more of our corporate ladies took their cues from individuals like Arundhati Bhattacharya, there’d be less stress at the workplace. Our advertising further compounds the problem by consistently projecting career women in a certain stereotypical light – those hideous suits, that awful attitude. There is rarely any hint of a family life in these depictions – no kids, no spouse, no in- laws. Just terrifying, robotic battle axes sporting sleek, no nonsense hair and unfussy make up. Their nails are short and painted in nude shades. They carry their iPads in discreet designer covers. Everything about their lives looks hellishly organized and scarily subdued. But the reality of our banking ladies is entirely different. I have been to some of their homes. I have met their children and in-laws, their husbands and staff members.There is nothing exaggerated about their daily routines.
It will be interesting to monitor Arundhati’s three years as Chairperson of SBI. She will, of course, be expected to announce certain bold and innovative measures soon. In that, she will be compared to the new RBI Guv, who has already set the ball in motion with his global thinking and experience. But unlike Raghu, who has been converted into a glam poster boy of the drab banking world ( I plead guilty!), Arundhati is likely to be left alone to get on with her job without having to worry about presenting her best angle during photo-ops. As a hardnosed professional, Arundhati will have to go out there and recover at least some of those bad loans. That’s going to be one hell of a call for her given the current the state of corporate India. But if anybody can pull it off, it’s this modest, hard working and brainy lady with her sensible QSQT approach.
I guess it needs a woman to best understand the bottom line.