65-year old P Kuttykrishnan had over 35 branches (across Trivandrum and Ernakulam, both major cities in Kerala) under his wing as Assistant General Manager of State Bank of India. Now retired and in Kochi—a major port city in Kerala—Kuttykrishnan helps run old-age homes, one of which is for the elderly destitute. He also works with Ramakrishna Sevashram, which adopts villages to assist in education, poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment.
Kuttykrishnan spoke to the Good Men Project about India’s demonetization drive, challenges inherent in the banking industry, and retired life:
As a banker, what were the major challenges of working in Kerala?
Being a highly unionised (trade union) sector, management was the main challenge. Taking credit decisions was another high-risk area. As a banker, one can’t escape this. Meeting targets in a state that sees a large amount of funds but no industrial or commercial activity was very challenging. There was political interference sometimes but we overcame such situations tactfully. Loan defaults too were a challenge. I believe the profession isn’t sought after today primarily because of low remuneration when compared with Central Government employees. Remuneration is probably the biggest challenge as of now in attracting the right brains.
The Indian Prime Minister has effectively pulled out 86% of the country’s cash from circulation and many experts predict that India’s GDP will decline by 2% or more in the coming months.Your comments.
This was overdue. No leader had the courage to take a step as extreme as this, but am sure it’s the right move. There is no way India can get ahead with its shadow economy mounting to millions of rupees. This money belongs to the people. It belongs to the government. India needs funds for infrastructure, research and development, agriculture, and innumerable other tasks.
Opposition leaders are protesting to politicize the issue. They claim to be “victims” of this progressive step taken by the Prime Minister. They don’t want to discuss anything. They aren’t willing to help. There are many with vested interests.
Could it have been planned and executed better?
Yes, it could have been planned better. Many sections are experiencing a lot of pain but this kind of a move will result in some chaos in such a huge country. Besides, how can immense planning go into something that is meant to be secret? I agree people are struggling but some stories are being planted by the media. Most channels can’t be trusted. If you ask me, 80% of India approves of this move because they are tired of inaction and corruption. Things are improving now but we have to wait several months before we see the pluses of this step. Till then, we have to be patient.
Is such a move enough to weed out black money?
I feel the government must soon focus on our borders for counterfeit money, liquid currency entering India via the Middle East, real-estate transactions, and benami or nameless assets. It must reduce the import of gold, limit quantity possessed by every household, encourage people to convert gold into bonds, and confiscate gold in excess of declared limits.
Apart from this, it must look into electoral funding, where a large part of black money resides. All this requires the cooperation of the people and other parties, including the media.
Where do you see India a few years down the line?
Am sure Indians will sail through this tough period and once this is behind us, we will grow. I have a lot of faith in my country and I have no doubt in my mind that we are in good hands.
Would you like to rewind your life and change anything at all?
Absolutely NO. I feel that in my official capacity as a banker, I really enjoyed my days with State Bank of India.I have been fully encouraged, accepted and honoured by that institution.
What would your message be to the younger generation of Indian men, especially potential bankers?
Know your own potential and your country’s potential to lead the world. Be proud of the past and don’t take life casually. India must lead the world in the 21st century. We have the potential.
To my fellow bankers, I would say that they should exercise caution in their business affairs for the world is full of trickery. However, let this not blind them to what virtue there is.They have been given a chance to serve the people and serve the nation, which they must. With all its shams, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful, be happy.