Arundhati Bhattacharya Has Always Admired Mentor Bharati Rao’s Outlook

by | March 8, 2022, 14:41 IST

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya with Bharati Rao (inset)

Former State Bank of India chairperson and current CEO & Chairperson, Salesforce India, Arundhati Bhattacharya has enjoyed the mentorship of fellow banking ‘lifer’ Bharati Rao 

I spent 40 years of my working life with the State Bank of India, so it is not surprising that I met the woman I consider a mentor there. Bharati Rao is the first woman to have become the Deputy Managing Director of the bank. Like me, she was a ‘lifer’ at the bank, and I learned much from her, sought her counsel often, and was always guided very well. 

“As a junior, going up before the final credit committees was always scary, because you never knew what questions would be asked; you were expected to have the answers so that the proposal would not be deferred. Many would get impatient with us, but she would take the time to help us understand how the numbers could be interpreted, to coach us so that, the next time, we were aligned with the priorities of the top management.

Arundhati Bhattacharya
Bharati Rao

“I also know that, with at least one promotion, when I was the youngest and junior most, when most of the board felt that my promotion could be deferred by a year because I could ‘afford to wait’, she and another lady board member were very clear that if I was found suitable, then age and the year should not be of any consequence. That played a big part in my getting up to the level I did, because, otherwise, I would not have had the residual service to qualify.

“Subsequent to her retirement, I have been with her on many boards, and have always appreciated her contributions for being extremely balanced and useful, especially with difficult items on the agenda. Sometimes, there were provocations, but I’ve never seen her losing her temper. She always maintained the very balanced outlook that I admire. 

“If I were to mentor someone, I would advise them to expect challenges. As women, we are often faced with the temptation to take the easier way out, to do something else rather than push back at the ecosystem that is pressing down on us. It is difficult to stand up to the pressure, but it is important to do it, again and again, until resistance becomes a behavioural pattern. And to seek opportunities, to keep yourself updated, and to allow yourself to grow. Expose yourself to challenges, seek them out if they do not come your way, for in challenge lies growth.”

As told to Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza

Also see: Aditi Gupta Found Mentor Gayatri Menon’s Support And Encouragement Precious

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