Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank, proved yet again that her prowess in business is almost unparalleled, by featuring on the Forbes Asia’s Power Businesswomen 2016 list. Yesterday, she wrote a letter to her daughter that bore testimony to how Chanda lays just as much emphasis on the finer things in life- love, family, and relaxation. Her daughter, Aarti Kochhar, stands on the threshold of her career, and her mum wanted to prepare her for what life is going to throw at her. Here are excerpts from her letter which hold some of the most valuable lessons, that all moms could impart to their children at this crucial stage.
Chanda writes, “Our parents treated all three of us – two sisters and a brother – equally. When it came to education, or our future plans, there was no discrimination between us based on our gender. This also helped me when I started out on my own journey of self-discovery.”
Raising all your sons and daughters like a pack of cubs – treating them equally, training them equally and teaching them all to be equally fierce in grabbing opportunities and facing adversaries would go a long way with your children when they face the real world. The go-getter attitude would come as second-nature to them, no matter what the world expects of them.
“As a parent with a full-time job, one must not let work affect the way you relate to your family. Remember the time you were studying in the US and the announcement of my becoming MD and CEO of ICICI was splashed across all newspapers? I remember the mail you wrote to me a couple of days later. ‘You never made us realize that you had such a demanding, successful and stressful career. At home, you were just our mother,’ you wrote in your email. Live your life in the same way, my darling. Remember that relationships are important and have to be nurtured and cherished. Also keep in mind that a relationship is a two way street, so be ready to give a relationship just as you would expect the other person to be giving to you.”
Notice how she says “parent”, and not mother. She urges all parents – successful moms and workaholic fathers – to set their priorities in order, not based on the ROI they will receive in currency, but in happiness. Your home and family is another, equally important company you should focus on running efficiently. Investing time in building a close unit, being there for your children who also look up to you for mentorship and leadership, and the revenues you receive in love, respect and adulation will be priceless.
“I also learnt from my mother that it is very important to have the ability to handle difficult situations and keep moving forward in life, no matter what. Even today I can remember the equanimity and calmness with which she handled the crisis on hand when my father passed away. I remember how, in late 2008, we were faced with a situation where ICICI Bank’s survival was in jeopardy in the face of a global economic meltdown. It was during this period that I took a couple of hours off one day to attend your brother’s squash tournament. I did not know it then, but my very presence at the tournament went a long way in reinstalling customer confidence in the bank. A few mothers at the tournament said that if I could still find time to attend a tournament in the midst of a crisis, it meant that the bank was in safe hands and they need not worry about their money!”
Losing their father at a young age, Chanda’s mother had stepped into his shoes effortlessly, maintained the strength and resilience in her disposition, and anchored her children through the crisis. Chanda was faced with a similarly burgeoning disaster situation with her company, which she chose not to cower under, but rather, power through with calmness and confidence. When you are leading the pack, your actions in a crisis will decide whether your community soldiers on or runs amok, helter-skelter.
Your father and I nurtured our relationship despite the fact that we were both busy with our own careers, and I am confident you will do the same with your partner, when the time comes.
For a woman, it is crucial, almost imperative, to choose a partner with the same wavelength as her. As we stand at the cusp of complete independence, with the world rooting for us, the last hurdle is often the lack of support from one’s own family. Thus, choosing someone who has the same societal and ideological outlook as you, and who acts as a catalyst to your growth rather than smothering it, is of paramount importance.
“As you go forward, you will sometimes have to take difficult decisions, decisions that others might scorn at. But you must have the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Make sure you have that conviction to do what you know is right, and once you have it, don’t let skeptics distract you from your path. Don’t compromise on the values of fair play and honesty. Remember to be sensitive to the feelings of people around you. And remember, if you don’t allow stress to overtake you, it will never become an issue in your life. Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete.”
The critics in a woman’s journey aren’t hard to come by – at every juncture, there is excruciating scrutiny. Fingers are pointed and judgements are thrown at why we are defying what is supposedly meted out to us by nature. But it is important to chase your dreams and be your own judge of what’s best for you.
As Aarti sets out to take on the world with such strong ideals, we can make more confident young women out of our own daughters by being a role model with rooted yet powerful values like Chanda’s.