KV Kamath’s A-team — Chanda Kochhar, V Vaidyanathan, Madhabi Puri-Buch, K Ramkumar and Sonjoy Chatterjee — had assembled there, a day before presenting the bank’s budget to the board. Kamath had told them they ought to focus on reining in costs.
But a consensus seemed to elude the group. That was because Kochhar, widely tipped to take over from Kamath, was unconvinced. Everybody else in the room reckoned Rs 7,900 crore in operating expenses was a fair number.
The debate went on, until abruptly, Kochhar stood up and said: “With this kind of numbers, we won’t have a bank to run next year.” That said, she called the meeting to a close.
A couple of hours of brainstorming later without Kochhar, they reassembled in the same room. “We don’t have an answer,” executive director and group HR head at the bank K Ramkumar recalls the team telling Kochhar. “What is the number we ought to be working on?” Without blinking, she said “Rs 6,500 crore”.
This is back to banking basics: Chanda Kocchar
Expect a desirable newness: KV Kamath
On first impression, Mumbai can be scary
For a few moments, there was a stunned silence in the room. Essentially, she was telling them to maintain operating expenses at the previous year’s level. For people working in an entity that always grew at 35 – 40 per cent each year, this sounded like harakiri. The next day, Kamath nodded in approval and smiled at the numbers. What in the devil’s name, they wondered, was going on? What, indeed!
A new paradigm
For as long as most people who have followed ICICI can remember, the bank has remained married to one mission: Aggressive growth. That is why when news started trickling out that a divorce is inevitable, we had to ask Chanda Kochhar — who has since taken over from Kamath as the CEO and managing director, if this is indeed the case. Quite honestly, it was impossible to miss the firmness in an otherwise temperate voice. “Growth,” she said, “can mean various things. It isn’t just about growing the balance sheet.”
To seasoned ICICI watchers, this is the kind of language that qualifies for blasphemy — the kind of thing an outsider with no clue of the bank’s institutional history would say. But then, we all know Chanda Kocchar is, The Insider. She’s seen it all: How her predecessor KV Kamath transformed ICICI from a crumbling development financial institution (DFI) to India’s most visible universal bank; how he grew its balance sheet five fold in less than a decade; and how he commands fanatic loyalty from the troops. But everything Kochhar is executing right now may seem to be at loggerheads with what her mentor believed in.
Over the next one year, she intends to grow the balance sheet by just five per cent — an unthinkably low number during the Kamath years. But now, she is battening down the hatches on two of Kamath’s biggest bets — plant the ICICI flag outside India and aggressively woo rural India. For some time to come, Kochhar promises there will be no saber rattling on either of these fronts.
And remember the credit card and personal loan businesses? Kamath goaded the bank into war with global giants Citi and Standard Chartered and eventually toppled them a few years ago. One of the first things Kochhar did after taking over was to tell her colleagues to back off from these verticals and cut losses.
22nd March 2010 From India, Delhi
She is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of the bank in May 2009. She is currently the Joint Managing Director (JMD) of ICICI Bank. She is also the bank`s the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the official spokesperson & that`s not all. She also heads the Corporate Centre of ICICI Bank.
Chanda Kochhar joined ICICI as a Management trainee after her Masters in the year 1984. After 9 years of hard work, Kocchar was appointed as part of core team to set the ICICI bank. She got promotion in 1994 & 1996 as Assistant General Manager and then Deputy General Manager respectively. In 1998, she was promoted as the General Manager with role of handling relationships with ICICI`s top 200 clients. In April 2001, she was promoted as Executive Director, heading the retail business in ICICI Bank. In April 2006, Chanda Kocchar was appointed as Deputy Managing Director of ICICI Bank.
Honors & Awards
Under Kocchar`s leadership, ICICI Bank won the Best Retail Bank in India award in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and Excellence in Retail Banking Award� in 2002; both awards was given by the The Asian Banker. Kocchar personally was awarded Retail Banker of the Year 2004 (Asia-Pacific region) by the Asian Banker, Business Woman of the Year 2005 by The Economic Times and Rising Star Award for Global Awards 2006 by Retail Banker International. Kocchar has also consistently figured in Fortune`s list of Most Powerful Women in Business since 2005. She climbed up the list debuting with the 47th position in 2005, moving up 10 spots to 37 in 2006 and then to 33 in 2007. In the 2008 list, Kocchar features at the 25th spot.
22nd March 2010 From India, Delhi