I’m Anu Aggarwal, a Senior Executive at Kotak Mahindra Bank, and this is how I Lead from Within
Anu Aggarwal has played an instrumental role in building the Corporate Banking franchise for Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. She is the Co-Head of Conglomerates and Corporate Groups, and a part of the leadership team of the Bank. She has been named as one of Corporate India’s Fastest Rising Stars. This is how she leads from within…
It’s been forty-five remarkable years of love and joy. I was born and brought up in Chandigarh with a middle class background. My father was then in the edible oils business and my hero. My mother was a housewife but one of the strongest women I have known. When all the girls in my immediate and extended family were getting married, my parents encouraged me to chase my dreams and go to Mumbai to study MBA at Jamnalal Bajaj. Once I came to Mumbai, I only went back for holidays, except when my daughter, Anahita, was born, at which time I spent three beautiful months with my family.
Why banking? Well, to be honest, there was no serious method to it. When I completed my MBA, banking seemed most remunerative and therefore, the right thing to do. My first job was with Citibank, and the next one with Kotak, which is where I still am. Having done banking for over 20 years now, I can say that I can’t imagine my life any other way. My role in Corporate and Investment Banking gives me an opportunity to meet very knowledgeable people and build valuable relationships. It’s a process of constant learning and innovation.
My husband is my school sweetheart and my best friend. I have a 13-year old daughter. She is at an age when we are both learning from each other, doting on each other, and having the time of our lives.
My favorite pastimes are reading and traveling. A recent book that I read was ‘The pearl that broke its shell’ by Nadia Hashimi. It is set in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion and the Taliban rule. It’s a story of two courageous women in world that is short on passion. It makes one realize how human suffering helps build true character. I like to read about human relationships more than about management gyaan.
My mother. I learned all my strong suits from my mother – moving fast, staying positive and being organized. I always saw that the more there was to do, the more my mom felt alive. She was a fountainhead of energy and an eternal optimist. She had this magic trick of making everyone feel special; of making each one of her loved ones feel that she was with them even when she was not. Even today, she remains with us forever.
As a banker, talking numbers is my natural comfort zone. Beyond that, what makes me truly happy and content today is the relationships I have built along the way; with my clients, my colleagues, my team members – I think that’s very dear to me. Like they say, it’s about the journey. Results automatically follow.
On Equality and Inclusion
According to me we should not give women ‘special’ opportunities. What women want is equal opportunities. Gender diversity is not about including women for their gender; it’s about not excluding them. It’s about not having a cliché mindset that says “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It’s about a mindset that says that we are all from Planet Earth and we are all EQUAL.
My belief is that CEOs and Top Management realize the benefits of gender diversity and are committed to it. However, this commitment does not percolate down and does not translate into action. Indian manufacturing is still very much “an old boys’ network”. Indian banking is a little different. We need an encouraging environment where at least women support women.
On Change and Culture
Time and again, I have realised that change maybe difficult, but our survival depends on it. It is neither the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives; it is the one that is the most adaptable to change. However, while going through a process of business transformation, never lose focus of your culture. Culture is everything. It is more important than strategy or operating model. We often make the mistake of ignoring culture, because it is ‘soft’ and ‘informal’.
On Work-Life Balance and Family Life
To me, its about : 1) Effective time management; and 2) prioritization. Effective time management is making every minute count. And, prioritization is about knowing what counts and doing things that count. In managing home lies the true essence of a real leader. A leader who cannot have happy relationships with a small family at home will never be able to have happy relationships with the big family at work. A good leader creates a conducive environment for everyone in the team to have work-life balance.
One Piece of Advice I Have
Don’t be a perfectionist.’ I was shocked when I first heard this from my boss three years ago. All of us are trained to believe perfect is good. Over years of work life, I have realized perfect is the enemy of good.