Could you talk us through your career journey?
Banking and Finance was my chosen career path right from my school days. I was surrounded by family members who were in the finance space; my elder sibling was pursuing chartered accountancy, so my academic interest was always to pursue that as well and being able to clear my exams securing an All India rank of 5th further encouraged me to pursue finance as a career.
I started my first career stint with ICICI Bank, in their Treasury team. It was a stint which confirmed my interest in banking because I entered the industry at a time when it was full of action and high pace. In those initial formative years of my career (the first 2-3 years), I made up my mind that this is the industry I want to be in. Within ICICI, I moved roles: starting with Treasury, and then went into Central Planning and Strategy.
After a brief stint with Standard Chartered – I joined HSBC in their Finance Team; I did four different roles over ten years covering almost every finance discipline. I then got an opportunity to return to Standard Chartered in their Consumer, Private and Business Banking Team, which I was heading back in India. From there on, I secured this global opportunity which elevated me to my first MD position. So basically, things (both planned and unplanned) worked well in my case, and here I am in Singapore!
Having said that, I have very fond memories of working with our India CEO Mrs Zarin Daruwala, during my time in Consumer, Private and Business Banking in India. After the Retail Head at that time left the Bank, she was directly running the business. That proved to be a significantly positive career boosting experience for me, since I got to work directly with the CEO in a business environment which was so challenging. Every single day we were being questioned if we should be running that business in India. Zarin ma'am took up the challenge to turn the business around, and she needed a partner to help her do it, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I have always been in awe of her, but when I started working with her, I realised that she is a woman driven by purpose, and she has no barriers. Therefore, we managed to forge a strong partnership in steering the business out from a challenging position.
2019 was the year of turnaround for the India business (from a loss-making business to clocking a small profit in one single year was monumental!). This also proved that the business had huge underlying potential; it just needed the right hands and the right strategy to steer the ship. What was heartening was that the finance partnership was well acknowledged in this turnaround journey. Stakeholder feedback from senior business representatives including Zarin ma'am herself played a part in helping build my credentials to secure the MD position in a global role.
Could you tell us a bit about your family and personal life?
My spouse and my kids are here with me in Singapore. My son is 5 years old, and my daughter is 10 years old. They took to Singapore like fish in water because the environment is so supportive. They like the open space in the city. It also helps that it is just a five-hour flight from India; it is not too taxing to go back home when needed. They like their new school and new friends here; they like the fact that they are not in a city where they feel completely foreign as there is a fair bit of community presence in Singapore. They also get to pursue all their interests. As a city it is very well planned, and everyone gets more time on their hands (unlike Mumbai where we get in stuck in traffic for long hours).
My spouse of course has mixed feelings about Singapore since it is a forced break for her. At the same time, she is happy with the fact that she can spend quality time with the kids, which she has always wanted to do. She was working for 16 years before we moved here and everyday, she used to tell me that at some point, she wants a break and would love to spend some time watching the kids grow. So, here is the break. But as they say, grass is always greener on the other side. And after three months of break, she said she has had too long a break and wants to start working again. So, she tends to go through her whole emotional roller coaster but I keep showing her the brighter side of things and she is using this time to upgrade her skills.
What are you most likely to spend the weekend doing?
I end up cycling, swimming, running while my kid is at his football practice. That’s a dramatic change in my own lifestyle; I never did all this when I was back in Mumbai. I have more time on my hands now and have become more disciplined. In Mumbai, you don’t find many running spots, and the air quality is also poor. The air quality in Singapore is significantly better, which motivates me to go out more often, and spend time outdoors.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have received is to zoom out and look at things in a zoomed-out fashion. When we are in the grasp of the moment, we perceive things in a certain way. But when we zoom out, we realise it is not such a big deal after all. It applies to so many dimensions of life, whether it is your personal situation, or your career. Oftentimes when you are evaluating the situation, it can come across to you in a very different way, versus when you zoom out and look at it in a broader perspective. Your way of looking at it completely changes.
What are you most likely to spend the weekend doing?
I end up cycling, swimming, running while my son is at his football practice. That’s a dramatic change in my own lifestyle; I never did all this when I was back in Mumbai. I have more time on my hands now and have become more disciplined. In Mumbai, you don’t find many running spots, and the air quality is also poor. The air quality in Singapore is significantly better, which motivates me to go out more often, and spend time outdoors.