“Strategy Must Suit the Environment”

TR Vivek is a Bengaluru-based journalist
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Chanda Kochhar talks about the challenging business environment and her journey to the top

Chanda Kochhar talks about the challenging business environment and her journey to the top

Q How has the global financial meltdown impacted India’s banks?

A Globally, the issues started with the financial services world and then they impacted the real economy. India has remained buffered from many of these things. The starting point of the slowdown in any case hasn’t been the sector in India. In fact, it has been very robust. Many reasons caused the robustness. Our regulations were tighter. Globally there were many parts of financial services which were outside regulation. Secondly, the lending standards in India were very different. When we lend, it is against cash flow. It is always dependent on a person’s salary or a project’s cash flow and not against asset bubbles. The Indian consumer by nature is a little more conservative and has never really over-leveraged, as consumers in the West have. When the economy goes through some challenges and adjustment in GDP, then the banking sector gets impacted to a certain extent.

Q Has the decision to not employ collection agents improved the bank’s image?

A Yes, it definitely has had a much more positive impact on the reputation of the bank. In a way, the reason was that in the current environment, one has to treat collection more as a preventive measure rather than a curative measure. Which is why we decided that we will do the collection in-house. Our own people who sell loans will follow up on payments, rather than rely on agents.

Q Do you still see any weaknesses in ICICI Bank’s model?

A I never saw any weaknesses. The question is what more do we do to reorient our strategy to suit the business environment. Currently, whatever we have chalked out is the best way forward.

Q What did you think when you joined ICICI as a management trainee?

A At the time it was really more an excitement and enthusiasm that everyone at that age goes through. The desire at that time was to really do well in a career with a lot of dedication and hard work. Give the best to the career and hope to do better than most others. That was about it.

Q How is your international business doing?

A We’ll continue to focus on only NRIs and remittance facilities. We continue to be a strong player in that business with a 25 per cent market share. The other focus was the Indian corporate sector and their global requirements. But their demand is anyway currently muted. You won’t see much growth this year, but the business remains quite stable.

Q How does it feel to be named one of the most powerful women in the world?

A I definitely feel honoured. But it’s also a reminder of the great responsibility I have.

Q What do you do to unwind?

A To whatever extent I have the time, I spend it with my family. That is the biggest stress buster.