K V Kamath: The Banking visionary calls it a day
Kamath's focus on application of technology and retail expansion is the driving force
behind ICICI Bank's competitiveness
Life begins after 60. So it seems for Kundapur Vaman Kamath, who starts his next stint as
mentor, or non-executive chairman of ICICI Bank, in May next
Kamath joined ICICI in 1971 and worked till 1988 when he left
for a stint at the Asian Development Bank till 1996. When
Kamath took over as MD & CEO in 1997, ICICI was wilting
under the burden of bad loans and asset-liability mismatches.
The expansion under him over the last decade has been
impressive. From a project finance company to a universal bank
with around 1,400 domestic branches, 3,500 ATMs, 35,000
employees in around 20 countries and over 25 million customers.
In percentage terms, retail assets now account for 55 per cent% of the bank's total assets. The
bank, of course, had to take a pause on its retail growth plans following the economic
downturn, and his critics say Kamath has been over-aggressive.
Kamath's focus on performance has largely revolved around the "90-day rule", a phrase he
picked up from a dotcom seminar in New York. The start-ups there were taking products
from concept to market in 90 days because if they didn't, somebody else would. Kamath has
always made sure that the time gap between an idea and its execution is less than 90 days. In
the process, he changed the face of Indian banking.
The strategic thinker part was visible early enough when Kamath turned ICICI, a staid lender
that was much smaller in size than IDBI, into a dynamic bank. He took the unconventional
path of turning an industrial lender into a retail bank by scripting a reverse merger in 2001.
From a 359-branch institution in 2001, ICICI Bank ramped up its network to nearly 1,400
branches by 2008.
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Kamath also saw tomorrow far before any other banker did.
Example: He was the first to marry technology with retail banking in India. At a time when
there were fewer than 100 ATMs in the entire country, ICICI Bank said it would roll out
1,000 ATMs in the very first year. The innovation has yielded rich results. Kamath was
instrumental in setting up new businesses in leasing, venture capital as well as credit rating.
He has transformed ICICI from a lumbering development financial institution into India's
largest private sector bank.
A. R. Rahman: Waving the music wand
The Golden Globe award has given his music global recognition
Allah Rakha Rahman has put India on the global
entertainment map. He has just won the Golden
Globe in the best original score category for
'Slumdog Millionaire'. The Golden Globe has for the
first time come to India and is the second most
prestigious award in filmdom after the Oscars.
The award clearly establishes that Rahman, 42, has
been accepted globally. The musician, who began
playing instruments when he was as young as four,
has been contributing to his brand of music to
listeners and audiences abroad.
He has done musicals for Broadway productions
including 'Bombay Dreams' and 'Lord of the Rings',
has composed music for Nokia and scored hit singles
like 'Pray For Me', 'Brother for the UN' and 'One Love', a tribute to the Taj Mahal.
Rahman has experimented not just with his music, but also the manner in which it should be
heard. He's known as a hard task master who, if rumours are to be believed, once drove
singer Sonu Nigam to tears during the recording of a song for the Hindi film, Dil Se.
Rahman (born AS Dileep Kumar in Chennai) started composing for South Indian films at a
young age after his father died. His school days also saw him part of a rock band called
'Roots'. From there, he began to compose music independently and was initially criticised for
creating and mixing sounds on his computer through different music software. That others
followed to make music through software is a different matter altogether.
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His new effort, KM Music Conservatory, a school which promises to unearth new talent in
the field of music, has been a success story already.
For someone who didn't have any formal education in music it has been a journey of
Ashok Gehlot: Rajasthan's Mr Clean is back in the saddle
Gehlot is known for his public service and frugal living
Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as the Chief Minister of
Rajasthan recently. This was his second term as CM, the
first one ending in 2003 when the Vasundhara Raje led
BJP stormed to power.
Had Gehlot not been lucky in politics, he might have
ended up as a magician. His father, Babu Laxman Singh
Gehlot, was a renowned magician and young Ashok
accompanied him on several trips, learning, in the process,
some tricks. But Ashok never wanted to become one like
his father. He was keen to be a doctor, but ended up as a
student of economics.
His entry into politics was just by chance. Indira Gandhi had visited Jodhpur soon after the
Bangladesh war and Gehlot was among the crowd gathered to cheer her. He virtually jumped
before her yelling "Madam, see this, listen to us" in his effort to draw her attention to the
plight of Bangladesh refugees.
Indira Gandhi turned back and exchanged a few words with 20-year-old Ashok. She was
impressed by the young man's determination, confidence and dedication for a cause. This
was the turning point in Gehlot's life; he took a plunge into the uncertain world of politics
and became president of the Rajasthan unit of NSUI in 1974.
His first break came in 1980 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jodhpur. He became
the youngest MP when he was only 29. Indira Gandhi inducted the young man from
Rajasthan in her government as Deputy Minister in 1982. The people of Jodhpur elected him
in 1984, 1991, 1996 and 1998 general elections. He was defeated once by Jaswant Singh of
the BJP. Besides a ministerial stint in the Indira Gandhi government, Gehlot was a member of
the Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao governments as well.
Gehlot does not have house of his own; nor does he own a car. He knows some of the tricks
of the trade that he has learnt from his father and uses them to collect funds for welfare
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While in 1996 the Congress swept to power with 156 seats under Gehlot's leadership, it was
down to 56 in 2003. Vasundhara Raje was crowned the undisputed leader with 120 seats in
the BJP's bag. In addition, there were charges flying thick and fast that Gehlot's Cabinet was
packed with corrupt people. But no one accused Gehlot of corruption. His image remained
that of 'Mr Clean' and it remains so as he became the Chief Minister for the second time.
Romila Thapar: Interpreter of things past
The Kluge Prize is another feather in the cap of the acclaimed historian
Historian Romila Thapar was chosen for the 2008 Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in
the study of Humanity instituted by the United States
Library of Congress recently.
Emeritus Professor of History at New Delhi's Jawaharlal
Nehru University, 77-year-old Romila will share the $1-
million award with Peter Robert Lamont Brown, 73-year-old
Professor of History at Princeton University.
Thapar is a well-known name in the world of academics,
whose writings have profoundly changed the way India's
past is understood both at home and abroad.
According to the Library of Congress, Romila and Brown
brought "dramatically new perspective to understand vast
sweeps of geographical territory and a millennium or more of time in, respectively, Europe
and the Middle East, and in the Indian sub-continent".
Romila "created a new and more pluralistic view of Indian civilisation, which had seemed
more unitary and unchanging, by scrutinising its evolution over two millennia and searching
out its historical consciousness".
At the beginning of her career, Romila challenged the conventional historiography. In her
'History of India' (1966), she broke from the prominently held view of an unchanging India,
characterised by a past and static golden age. This work accelerated the adaptation of the
social sciences in Indian universities and became a standard teaching text in Indian schools.
Romila opposed the rewriting of history text books to espouse the agenda of the party in
power during the NDA rule — 1998 to 2004. This in her opinion was an attempt to propagate
a revisionist history in classrooms and political discourse.
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"Once we accept one religious group's agenda and beliefs to be taught in public schools, it
opens the door for every other group to do the same thing. As educators, we have to make a
distinction between history on the one hand, which involves questioning existing knowledge
about the past where necessary, and faith on the other, where even myths are acceptable, the
two have to be kept separate. The first is the domain of the historian and the second that of a
priest", says the noted historian.
Romila declined to accept the Padma Bhushan twice — in 2005 and 1992. In a letter to the
then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, she said: "I only accept the awards from academic
institutions or those associated with my professional work, and not state awards".
Chanda Kochhar named ICICI Bank CEO
Versatile work experience and proven skills got her the top job
The ICICI Bank board has named joint managing
director and CFO Chanda Kochhar as the bank's
chief executive officer and managing director.
She will take over from K V Kamath, the bank's
current CEO and MD, when his term ends in
Kochhar has the unique distinction of having
worked across almost all departments ranging
from project finance, treasury, the corporate
centre and retail, a business that she nurtured for
the group from day one.
The succession plan at ICICI Bank wasn't unpredictable. It became fairly clear that Kochhar
was the frontrunner for the corner room when she was elevated to Joint Managing Director &
CFO— the second most powerful position in the bank—early last year.
Kochhar joined the erstwhile Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India in 1984
after graduating from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management. Having started as a
management trainee, in 1993, she moved to ICICI Bank, the private sector bank which later
merged ICICI, the development financial institution, with itself. Kochhar was among the first
employees of the bank and was responsible for how it shaped up.
She was instrumental in setting up and scaling up the retail business for ICICI Bank. In April
2001, she took over as the executive director, heading the retail business in the ICICI Bank.
In April 2006, she was appointed as deputy managing director.
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She has often featured in the Fortune magazine's annual lists of most powerful business
women across the world.
Sheila Dikshit: Bucking anti-incumbency
Her third successive win reflects Delhi's faith in her administration
Sheila Dikshit has become the only chief minister of Delhi to enter into a third successive
term. In the 123-year history of the Congress, she is the third chief minister to have this
record after Vasantrao Naik of Maharashtra (1963-75) and
Mohan Lal Sukhadia of Rajasthan (1954-71).
Congress, led by Dikshit, won 42 out of 69 seats in the
Assembly elections. Throughout the campaign, Dikshit
remained the face of Congress.
She was born in a non-political family in Punjab's
Kapurthala district in 1938. After her graduation from
Miranda House, she got her post-graduate degree in history
from Delhi University.
Her lessons in politics came after her marriage with IAS
officer Vinod Dikshit, the son of former Union Minister and
Governor Uma Shankar Dikshit. Her acumen in administrative and legislative matters helped
her to get involved in politics after the 1969 split in the Congress party.
Elected from the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat of Uttar Pradesh in 1984, she became a minister in
Rajiv Gandhi's government after two years. She started as Minister of State for Parliamentary
Affairs and later got additional charge in the Prime Minister's Office.
She represented India at United Nations Commission on Status of Women for five years
(1984-1989). As President of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, she led her party to a
sweeping victory in the Assembly elections in 1998. This was the beginning of her first term
as the Chief Minister of Delhi.
Improving urban governance would be her priority in her third term. Delhi has grown fast and
the provision of civic amenities has not kept pace. Affordable transportation is another issue.
The road transport system is likely to be modified using public private participation to replace
the regime of private buses. She had asked for tenders for the transport pooling system
modelled on the Indore transport system, under which a single corporate entity would own
one pool of routes and hence would be more accountable.
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Her biggest challenge will be the Commonwealth Games which are slated to take place in
Ashfaq Pervez Kayani: Ruling from the barracks
The Army Chief maintains a firm grip on the reins of power
It is often said that while nations have armies, Pakistani Army is an army with a nation.
Nothing exemplifies this better than Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani's
stranglehold on power. While the government led by
Asif Ali Zardari appears to be fully in command of
politics, aided by a pliant judiciary, a supportive US and
a majority in Parliament, it is the Pakistani Army that
continues to call the shots as it has done ever since that
country became independent.
It is almost certain that the Mumbai attacks had the
sanction and endorsement of the Pakistani Army and the
shadowy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). No wonder,
the man at the helm of things is under a scanner.
General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has been listed at No 20
by Newsweek in a list of 50 "Global Elite". The Chief
of Army Staff of Pakistan has risen to that post
following a stint as the ISI chief himself.
A reclusive man who has never given a press interview,
Kayani has a reputation of talking little but getting a lot done. The son of an army NCO, he
received his commission in the Pakistani army in 1971 in the Baloch Regiment as an
infantryman. His father died when he was training at the military academy. The task of
supporting his family — he was the eldest of four brothers — fell on him.
In 2002, he was appointed commander of the key Rawalpindi Corps. In 2003, the then
President Pervez Musharraf gave Kayani charge of investigating two assassination attempts
against him. All intelligence agencies in the country were tasked to work with him. In a few
months, Kayani had unravelled the two plots and arrested many culprits. In 2004, he was
promoted to head the ISI.
After Gen Musharraf shrugged off his uniform, Kayani gave no indication of wanting to wear
a civilian hat. He likened coups to temporary bypasses that are created when a bridge
collapses on democracy's highway. After the bridge is repaired, he said to a Pakistani
newspaper, there's no longer need for the detour.
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As the Chief of Army Staff, he declared 2008 the "year of the soldier," an attempt to improve
the weak morale of the Pakistani Army which has lost more than 1,000 soldiers and police
officers since 2001. Earlier this year, several hundred soldiers surrendered to militants in
Waziristan, causing deep concern among the Pakistani military top brass.
Allegations that Kayani sanctioned the Mumbai attacks to galvanise a bitterly divided
Pakistani society has a ring of truth around them. Nothing unites a fractured Pakistani society
& polity than a war cry against the sworn enemy India. Also the specter of a war with India
gives him the ruse to shift his demoralized troops from the border with Afghanistan where
they have been at the receiving end of Taliban's growing strength.
Foreign policy experts say India cannot afford to take commitments made by the civilian
government on fighting terrorism directed against seriously. Kayani holds the veto over any
move towards normalization of relations with India. New Delhi will have to learn to do
business with him.