Arundhati Bhattacharya is a well known name among Indian bankers. She is the former Chairman of the State Bank of India. She is the first woman who reached to the post of Chairman of State Bank of India through her strong willpower and consistent hard work. In 2016, Bhattacharya was listed as the 25th Most Powerful Woman in the world by Forbes magazine. Another feather in her cap is that she is the first woman to lead an India-based Fortune India 500 company.
Arundhati was born in a Bengali family in Kolkata, India. Her childhood was spent in Bhilai. Her father, Prodyut Kumar Mukherjee was an employee of Bokaro Steel Plant. Her mother, Kalyani Mukherjee worked as a homeopathy consultant. She studied at St. Xavier’s School, Bokaro. Thereafter she studied English Literature at Calcutta’s Lady Brabourne College and then at Jadavpur University. Her husband Pritimoy Bhattacharya, is an ex-professor of IIT Kharagpur. The couple has a daughter named Sukrita who was born in 1995.
Arundhati Bhattacharya joined SBI as a Probationary Officer (PO) in 1977 at the age of 22 years. She has held several positions during her 36-year career with the bank including working in foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resources and investment banking. This included positions like the Chief Executive of the bank’s merchant banking arm- SBI Capital Markets; Chief General Manager in charge of new projects. She has also served at the bank’s New York office. She has been involved in 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 September 2013, Arundhati Bhattacharya became the first woman Chairman of SBI replacing Pratip Chaudhary. She introduced a two-year sabbatical leave policy for the bank’s female employees to use either for maternity or elder care. On Women’s day, she announced free vaccination against cervical cancer to all the bank’s female employees.
Arundhati once recounted an emotionally stirring experience of her challenges as a mom and a career woman. She told, “In 1996, I got a posting in the US as vice-president branch coordination. I was there for four years. My daughter was still very young when I went to the US, and my husband joined us there subsequently. My mother couldn’t accompany me because of my father’s health. My aunt provided immense support at this time. But after my aunt had two visa extensions, our attorney advised us not to try for a third one. If it’s rejected, she’ll never be granted a visa again, he cautioned. After a lot of souls searching for my husband and I decided that it was best to send our daughter back to India for a year. The memory of leaving my daughter at the airport is still fresh in my mind. She had her hands extended, reaching out to me and I had to walk away. It was really, really upsetting. That one year away from her was very stressful emotionally.”
Arundhati was due for retirement in October 2016 but granted an extension till October 2017. In 2016, she was named the 25th Most Powerful Woman in the world by Forbes. This was her first time being ranked on the list. In 2016 she was also ranked among the FP Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. She was named the 4th Most Powerful Woman in the Asia Pacific by Fortune. In 2017, India Today magazine ranked her #19th in India’s 50 Most Powerful People of 2017 list. Arundhati Bhattacharya said in an interview that the credit for her success goes to her family, especially her husband and daughter, who were very understanding and with their rock-like support she could reach to the top of success.