From Banking to Politics to Activism: The Meera Sanyal Story

3rd May 2013
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We need to stop being bystanders who just criticize the government” Meera Sanyal, President, Indian Liberal Group.

In a country like India where entrepreneurship is still in a growing phase, the number of women crusaders is still in a microscopic range. Out of the number of entrepreneurs one comes across, finding a women entrepreneur still comes as a pleasant surprise. Amidst this, meeting a changemaker is still rare .

Meera Sanyal
Image Courtesy: Indiatimes

One such stalwart is Meera Sanyal, a banking professional who relinquished her role as Country Executive of RBS India to work towards governance and social issues. She is now the president of the Indian Liberal Group, a think tank and a non-governmental organization working towards good governance in India.

Meera Joined RBS in 1992 to head its Investment Banking Division and has been with RBS for 21 years. She was also the chair for the RBS foundation which works in several areas to conserve Biodiversity and other social causes.

Two years ago, she was invited by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to join the International Council of Women Business Leaders to focus on economic empowerment of women for global prosperity. She is also the chairperson of the Financial Inclusion committee at FICCI and National Advisory Board AIESEC India. Here, we get in a conversation with Meera.

Excerpts:


YourStory: What inspires you to do the varied things that you do or decide to do in life? What's your motivation?


Meera Sanyal: My father always told us that while it was not always possible to do the things you liked - it was always possible to like the things you did!

This is a philosophy that guided me for much of my professional life - and I have greatly enjoyed every job I undertook. But over the years I also found a great deal of motivation in undertaking tasks that were meaningful and through which I could make a difference. I find this is true of most people - and certainly for myself this is what inspires me.

YS: Working women in India have to deal with a lot of challenges, what do you think can be done to address that?


MS: One of the biggest challenges faced by working women, not just in India, but in many parts of the world, is managing the balance between work and being a mother/wife/homemaker. In India, family help, especially from parents and parents-in-law, is a great support.

Organisations can also help by providing flexible working hours and arrangements, that make it possible for working women to manage the multiple demands on their time. This is a win- win situation; it helps the organisation retain and attract talented women and at the same time it provides working women with much needed flexibility.

YS: What made you leave the corporate sector and enter public service? What were the key drivers?


MS: Though I have relinquished my role as Country Executive of RBS bank, to devote more time to public service, I must clarify that I have not left the Corporate Sector! I continue to serve the organisation as Chairperson of RBS India Services and our Foundation.

The key driver to enter public service is my belief that each one of us must take a greater role in the governance of our country as Active Citizens. The time has come for us to stop being bystanders and just analyzing and criticizing our Government. We must participate constructively to improve things.

YS: The young India is a bit disillusioned with the current political environment, what would be your message to them?


MS: This is our country and only we can make it better. We are fortunate to live in a Democracy - let us use this gift to participate in improving governance and the state of our nation.

YS: What are the three core areas where you will be focusing in the near future and how are you planning to go ahead on them?


MS: The three core areas that I will be focusing on are :

1) The economic, social and political empowerment of women

2) Education that helps our youth to become either entrepreneurs or be more employable

3) Addressing the issues of water / water harvesting and water security

In addition to addressing these issues on a policy level, I remain associated at a practical level with projects across the country addressing these issues.

YS: How have you leveraged social media in your public life?


MS: Social media provides a very interactive way to obtain feedback from a wide variety of sources. I am active on Facebook, (Meera H Sanyal), Twitter (@meerasanyal), LinkedIn and also have a blog (meerasanyal.wordpress.com)

YS: Is the time ripe for political entrepreneurship in India? What according to you does it take to enter the political arena?


MS: Yes - we need to create a new model for politics in India. The social contract between the Citizens of India and our political establishment seems to be breaking down. There is a need for a new type of politician - one who enters the political arena to serve India.

We wish Meera a great and exciting journey ahead.

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