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'Super' Kochhar makes journey from trainee to CEO

December 19, 2008 12:53 IST

Success like her's is the staple of dreams that school children dream, but Chanda Kochhar is one that would have hardly had the time for such fantasies.

A diligent student, Kochhar was busy collecting gold medals in management studies and cost accountancy when others were wiling away time -- all of which she channelised to get to the top post of India's largest private sector bank ICICI Bank.

Kochhar spent her college years playing badminton and polishing her elocution skills -- which would come handy later in the hardball game of boardroom negotiations.

Soon after completing her masters in management studies (finance) and cost accountancy, this Jodhpur girl joined the erstwhile industrial finance company ICICI in 1984 as a management trainee.

In 1993, when the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India decided to enter commercial banking business, Kochhar was deputed to ICICI Bank as a part of the core team to set up the operations.

She was instrumental in setting up, as well as scaling up, the retail business for ICICI. In 2000, by when Kochhar had already started rising from the ranks to become a key

player in the top management, ICICI Bank formally entered retail banking business and within five years became the largest private sector financer in the country.

The bank became the leader in car and two-wheeler finance, home finance and card business - a super achievement by a woman who has been named among the world's most powerful women by Fortune.

A doting mother, she cared for the bank as much, if not more, for her two children and believed in the institution so much that she continues to park her entire savings in the bank.

Kochhar played a key role in shaping the retail finance industry in the country, where funds were hard to come by for individual borrowers.

She oversaw the development of a large network of direct sales agents, setting up Bancassurance model to sell insurance products and implementation of cross sell by using various channels. In April 2001, she took over as executive director, heading the retail business in ICICI Bank.

While everyone loves good times, Kochhar's strength was tested when ICICI Bank faced hard times a couple of months back when the lender was the focus of rumours that cast doubts on its financial health.

The rumours led to the hammering down of ICICI Bank's shares from near Rs 1,500 at the beginning of the year to Rs 300-level in October.

It 'only means that it is a very-very good investment for people to invest their money,' was her spirited reply to a question on the erosion in market capitalisation.

Under her leadership, the bank won the Best Retail Bank Award for four years, thrice in a row (2003, '04 and '05), from The Asian Banker.

She has been steadily climbing up the lists of most influential people brought out by domestic and global publications. Fortune magazine ranked her as 2007's 33rd most powerful woman in business - compared with 47th place in 2005.

Women have straddled the business world before and many in the banking space, but none have the distinction of transforming a small bank into the largest private sector bank in the country.

Now that's some benchmark!

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