According to two sources, a senior executive in a leading financial conglomerate in Mumbai and a company insider, the State Bank of India chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya has been offered a position on the Infosys board. The offer was first made nearly 10 days ago before all hell broke loose in Infosys with its CEO Vishal Sikka resigning on Twitter. An email sent to Bhattacharya’s office did not elicit any response. Bhattarcharya ranks No.1 in Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women list, the only such ranked list in the country.
Read our earlier story on Arundhati Bhattacharya: Good Vs Evil
It is also said that Bhattacharya was offered a seat on the board of another IT company of equal standing but that invitation came two days after she had received the one from Infosys. Sources say that Bhattacharya may be more inclined to take the Infosys role a few months after she retires from the bank on October 6. Public servants have to spend a mandatory cooling-off period after they retire from government service before taking up a private sector assignments.
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Interestingly, Bhattacharya’s appointment is said to have approval from both the erstwhile promoters and the current board. If Bhattacharya joins Infosys, it will take the count of women on the Infosys board to four-adding to Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Punita Kumar-Sinha and Roopa Kudva.
Details of when she will be formally invited or if she has communicated her willingness to take up the offer, are still not available. It is also not known who she would eventually replace on the board. The current chairman, R Seshasayee, and independent director Jeffrey Lehman are slated to retire early next year, though they may be more vacancies if some other board members resign before the dust settles in the ongoing fight.
Bhattacharya will no doubt be a good addition to the board. A lot of senior members in financial banking circles respect and credit Bhattacharya for her statesmanship in handling several tricky problems in the banking sector. She has also effectively tackled large corporate debtors by bringing them to the negotiating table.
In SBI, she has undertaken a large digital transformation of the bank, which is currently underway, and has on several occasions spoken to big IT firm CEOs to negotiate large deals for SBI. She drew praise from the likes of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who once had an impromtu, informal sit-down chat, on her ability to understand technology. This will be a move worth watching.