The Business Women
Where Business Runs Around Her

Arundhati Bhattacharya: A Pioneer in Indian Banking


Arundhati Bhattacharya, a trailblazer in the realm of finance, has left an indelible mark on India’s banking sector. By breaking barriers and setting new standards, she became the first woman to ascend to the esteemed position of Chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI). Her journey is a testament to resilience, perseverance, and unparalleled achievement. Let’s explore the life and career of this influential leader in detail.

Early Years and Academic Endeavors

Born into a Bengali family in Kolkata, Arundhati Bhattacharya spent her formative years in Bhilai and Bokaro Steel City. Her father, Prodyut Kumar Mukherjee, served at Bokaro Steel Plant, while her mother, Kalyani Mukherjee, was a revered homoeopathy consultant in Bokaro. Arundhati completed her schooling at St. Xavier’s School, Bokaro.

Her educational journey took her to Lady Brabourne College in Calcutta, followed by Jadavpur University, where she pursued English literature. Even in her youth, her intellectual prowess and inquisitive nature were evident.

Arundhati Bhattacharya’s personal life intertwined with academia, as her husband, Pritimoy Bhattacharya, was a former professor at IIT Kharagpur. This partnership reflects her dedication to both personal and professional growth.

A Storied Career

Arundhati Bhattacharya embarked on her remarkable journey with the State Bank of India in 1977, stepping in as a Probationary Officer at just 22 years old. Throughout her remarkable 36-year tenure with the bank, she assumed pivotal roles spanning various domains, including foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resources, and investment banking.

Her tenure as the chief executive of the bank’s merchant banking arm, State Bank of India Capital Markets, stands out as particularly noteworthy. During this time, she played a pivotal role in spearheading the launch of several new ventures, such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services, SBI Pension Funds Pvt. Ltd., and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund.

In 2013, Arundhati Bhattacharya made history by becoming the first woman to lead an India-based Fortune 500 company, taking over as Chairman after Pratip Chaudhuri. Throughout her tenure, she introduced progressive policies, including a groundbreaking two-year sabbatical leave for female employees and free cervical cancer vaccinations for female employees on International Women’s Day.

Under her visionary leadership, Arundhati Bhattacharya gained global recognition. Forbes ranked her as the 25th most powerful woman globally in 2016, and Foreign Policy magazine acknowledged her among the FP Top 100 Global Thinkers. India Today magazine also honoured her, placing her 19th on the list of India’s 50 Most Powerful People in 2017. Her legacy includes orchestrating the merger of SBI’s five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank, a strategic move aimed at addressing non-performing assets.

In 2018, she received the prestigious Business Leader of the Year award at The Asian Awards. Furthermore, in 2020, Arundhati Bhattacharya assumed the role of Chairperson and Chief Executive for the India division of Salesforce, a prominent global CRM giant, marking another milestone in her illustrious career.

Authoring Her Journey

In January 2022, Arundhati Bhattacharya released her autobiography, “Indomitable: A Working Woman’s Notes on Work, Life, and Leadership,” offering profound insights into her career, experiences, and perspectives as a woman navigating a male-dominated industry. The book delves into her childhood, early education, college life, and her transformative journey within the State Bank of India.

Awards and Legacy

Arundhati Bhattacharya’s trailblazing achievements have earned her numerous accolades, including the “Sera Bangali” – Serar Sera Award in 2015 from Anandabazar Patrika. Presently, she serves as a Non-Executive Director with Reliance Industries Limited, Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Sambalpur, and Chairperson of SWIFT India.

Arundhati Bhattacharya’s enduring influence serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring leaders, especially women, encouraging them to overcome obstacles and achieve excellence in their chosen paths. Her transformative journey from a novice banker to a prominent global corporate figure epitomises steadfast commitment, intelligence, and effective leadership, providing a guiding beacon of empowerment and optimism for future generations.

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