Authored by:

Shristi Kumari, Researcher

Arundhati Bhattacharya, well known for being the First Female Chairperson of SBI, is a retired Indian Banker.

Arundhati Bhattacharya has always been an inspiration for all the ambitious women who dream of pursuing their goals. Let’s take a look into different aspects of her life.


Born on: March 18, 1956

Place of birth: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Schooling: St Xavier’s School, Bokaro Steel City

Graduation: Kolkata’s Lady Brabourne College

Post-graduation: Jadavpur University.

Spouse: Pritimoy Bhattacharya, ex-professor of IIT Kharagpur.

Children: Sukrita Bhattacharya

How did her banking career begin?

  • While Arundhati was in her college she got to know about SBI PO recruitments. She applied for it and cracked the exams. She says, “I only went through a general knowledge book to crack the exam.”

  • She did not want to be a Banker at first hand. She wanted to pursue a career in Print Journalism and even aspired to write a book.

  • She joined SBI as a Probationary Officer at Alipore branch of West Bengal

What all posts did she serve?

  • 1977: Probationary Officer, Alipore, West Bengal.

  • The late 70s to early 80s: Junior Management Grade-1 level, Kolkata. Also worked in the Bank Guarantees Section. Later posted in the head office Kolkata

  • 1983: Transferred to Kharagpur and worked nine years there. She was promoted three times in this course and left as an Assistant Manager

  • 1987: Branch Manager, Nimpura, West Bengal.

  • 1993: Commercial Branch, Kolkata.

  • 1996: Vice President Branch Co-ordination, USA.

  • 2001: Foreign Department, Kolkata.

  • 2006: Transferred to Lucknow for a short period.

  • 2008: Transferred to Mumbai as General Manager and was shortly promoted to Chief General Manager.

  • 2011:MD of Human Resources, Mumbai.

  • 2013: Chairperson of The State Bank of India, Mumbai.

  • She handled the operations of the Bank during one of the most crucial times in the Banking sector that was Demonetization.

  • She has been experimental in the digital advancement of SBI.

  • She successfully concluded the merger of SBI with five associate banks along with Bharatiya Mahila Bank

Support of her husband and family

In her interview to Mid-day, she shared how her family supported her through thick and thin. She feels blessed to have received the support of her family, friends and colleagues. According to her, people should develop an environment wherein people are ready to help you out. With their acts of kindness on a daily basis they can maintain such environment

“When I was posted in New York from 1996-2000 (in charge of the branch’s performance and audit), my aunt came to help me look after my daughter. Owing to visa problems, she had to go back. I had no choice but to send my daughter back to Kolkata. My aunt moved in with my mother and sister to take care of my daughter back home in Bokaro. I will be forever indebted to her”, she says.

At one point of time she thought of quitting SBI

  • Yes, you have heard it right

  • In 2006, when she was transferred to Lucknow, she was unable to find a good school for her daughter that would cater to her daughter’s needs. She did not want to hamper her child’s education and wanted to quit.

  • However, her mentor, former chairman of SBI, MS Verma guided her. “My mentor advised me not to give up before I had exhausted all possibilities. Giving up is easier, one shouldn’t take the easy option out”, she says.

She loved to be called as the Chairperson instead of Chairman

On assuming office, she printed her business cards as the chairperson however the bank’s legal department advised her against it as the SBI Act did not have any provision for a chairperson. SBI Act recognized the position of Chairman only.

She was the first SBI chairman in history whose tenure was extended

Five days ahead of her retirement, her tenure was extended. At that time, SBI was in the process of merging five associate banks with itself including Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Bhattacharya was probably the most competent person to complete the task and the Government wanted her to stay.

She brought many pro-women reforms as the Chairman of SBI

  • In order to enable the female employees to manage their home and work simultaneously, she introduced a transfer policy that included flexible timing and temporary deputation and a two-year sabbatical leave policy. "We have brought in a two-year sabbatical for our women staff in case they want to take it for any purposes like education of their children, taking care of the elderly parents/in-laws," Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to head SBI, she said in an interview.

  • On the occasion of ‘International Women's Day,’ she announced free vaccination for cervical cancer to all the female employees of the SBI

What kept her engaged and interested in her work for 40 years?

In an interview with HBRA, she revealed that the thing that kept her moving was that she kept on changing jobs but within her organization. She kept on learning every day. In almost 40 years, she had 15 or 16 types of jobs, in various disciplines and places. She worked in the field of corporate banking, treasury, then into retail, then moved into opening new businesses, then to HR, and then into investment banking. For her, she did not work for one job in SBI but multiple jobs and roles within the same organization which helped her evolve and grow.

Career after SBI

  • Arundhati Bhattacharya joined Reliance Industries as additional director (independent director) for five years commencing 17 October 2018

  • Served in the BOD of IT-major Wipro

  • Chairperson in BOD of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) India.

  • She took charge of the Indian operations of Salesforce, a US Company as the Chairman and Chief Executive. (PRESENT)

  • Served as a part of BOD of Piramal Enterprises

  • She was also appointed as the chairperson of Mutual Fund Advisory Committee (MFAC) set up by SEBI


  • In 2016, the Forbes named Bhattacharya as the 25th most powerful woman in the world

  • Fortune listed her the 4th most powerful women in the Asia Pacific.

  • She was also nominated for the post of managing director and the chief operating officer (CEO) of the World Bank.

  • On Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women in Business lists, she was consistently ranked No. 1 between 2014 and 2017.

  • In 2018, Bhattacharya received the 'Business Leader of the Year' title at The Asian Awards

  • She was also interviewed by 'Harvard Business Review Ascend' which later got published as 'Arundhati Bhattacharya: The Making of SBI's First Woman Chairperson.'

Her message to young women

  • Arundhati Bhattacharya in her interview with Mint, conveys to all the aspiring women her Mantra of not giving up. In her words -

'Stay on the chosen path. Don't abandon the journey.'