Chanda Kochhar’s remarkable story of touching the sky and falling from grace

Chanda Kochhar has been the torch bearer of revolutionizing Private Banking System and endorsing the need of financial freedom for the women of India. She came from a small family in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. From the word go, her dreams and ambitions were way ahead of her times in 1960s and 1970s. She started her career with ICICI as a Management Trainee in 1981 after she graduated from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies.

Kochhar was one of the poster girls of women empowerment in modern India. Erstwhile Chairman of ICICI, K V Kamath, promoted Kocchar to his role and managed the show, remotely. She continued as the undisputed Queen of ICICI in the roles of MD and CEO. Under Kochhar’s leadership, ICICI Bank won the “Best Retail Bank in India” award in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and “Excellence in Retail Banking Award” in 2002; both awards were given by The Asian Banker. Kochhar personally was awarded “Retail Banker of the Year 2004 (Asia-Pacific region)” by the Asian Banker, “Business Woman of the Year 2005” by The Economic Times and “Rising Star Award” for Global Awards 2006 by Retail Banker International. Kochhar has also consistently figured in Fortune’s list of “Most Powerful Women in Business” since 2005.

The success journey of Chanda Kochhar came to a grinding halt in 2016, when Arvind Gupta, a famous litigator filed a complaint against her alleging that how Chanda committed banking fraud and accepted bribes through her husband Deepak Kochhar for granting loans to Videocon Group which was already knee-deep in debts. These transactions dated backed to 2012 but came to light in 2016. Her husband was a major beneficiary in this transaction for getting the loans to Videocon from ICICI. He received 10% of the amount as kickbacks and diverted that money to his firm called NuPower, which was in Windmills and power generation. Arvind Gupta filed an 8-page complaint against those involved to RBI, SEBI, the CBI, the ED, SFIO including Narendra Modi. His was not heard by many as Chanda had a stronghold on many media houses who were the beneficiaries of soft loans given away by her.

The intervention of a whistleblower along with an order to probe into this by Modi shook all the skeletons in March 2018. In the days that followed, panic-stricken ICICI bank issued a press release about the issue and what all happened later is all history. She quickly resigned from her posts as the CBI and the ED went deep in investigating all her involvements in various fraudulent transactions that benefitted her and her husband. A success story went sour as Chanda Kochhar failed to take a strong stand against getting herself involved in unethical banking practices.

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