Developmental Finance, backed by digital technologies, has the potential to promote comprehensive financial inclusion of underserved segments.
Prerna Saxena, our next pathbreaker, works with the United Nations based Better Than Cash Alliance, a partnership of governments, companies and international organizations, helping them achieve Sustainable Development Goals by accelerating the transition from cash payments to responsible digital payments.
Prerna talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about paving her career path in inclusive banking with a strong focus on social and economic empowerment for everyone irrespective of their background.
For students, always find a strong element of purpose in your career and make it your motivating factor that inspires you to do better everyday !
Prerna, can you tell us about Your background?
I grew up in Lucknow in a simple middle-class family. I studied in one of the best schools in the city and was always very sincere in my studies. From class 1-12, I was among the top 3 students of the class. My parents took keen interest in my studies and always encouraged me to do better and better.
I also used to learn Kathak when I was in school and participated in several dance performances in school and in the community. At some point of time, I also thought of taking up dance as my profession though my interests gradually moved towards Life Sciences. Even though I didn’t pursue dance as a profession, I continue to have a strong liking for classical dance and music.
In my extended family, in spite of the fact that all girls were well educated, no one pursued a career, except for my paternal grandmother who took up nursing as a profession after she lost her husband at a very young age! Strangely, most boys around me were average in studies and faced challenges in finding jobs of their liking. I used to find this very intriguing and wondered why life had different options for girls and boys or was it that they were deliberately choosing different paths due to societal norms!
Now when I look back, I think my grandmother had a big influence on me. She was a strong and independent woman who made her own decisions- a big contrast to other women in the family! Perhaps I wanted to be just like her who could live life on her own terms.
I also took several hobby classes like sketching, painting, embroidery etc during my school years as I wanted to learn as many skills as possible. I was quite independent at an early age and used to go by bicycle for these classes and also for other household tasks.
My parents instilled in me a desire to be an achiever and never stop trying. They both encouraged me to dream big and work hard to realise them. It was clear that having a career and being financially independent was the ultimate aim.
Unfortunately, my father had a sudden heart attack and he passed away when I was in class 11. Following this, my mother took up a job and started working while my younger brother and I were on our own most of the time. All this had a sobering effect on me and I became quite serious about life in general.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
My grandmother used to work as a nurse in a hospital and I used to accompany her sometimes to her workplace. I was quite impressed by the medical community and harnessed a desire to become a doctor.
I liked Science subjects, but somehow could not qualify in the pre-medical exams even after 3 attempts. Everyone who knew me was shocked, as I was always one of the top scorers in all school assessments.
Now when I think about it, I feel perhaps my father’s demise created certain unwanted insecurities in my mind and that diverted my focus. Well, it could be destiny as well, because there were some other plans in store for me!
I remember those were the toughest years of my life when I had passed out from school but was not getting through medical entrance exams. My relatives and neighbors had started making remarks that perhaps I have lost my focus and should stop dreaming of having a career. However, during all this, my mother always supported me and believed in my potential.
Then through one of my school seniors, I got to know about GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at Pantnagar, near Haldwani, Uttarakhand. I learnt that the university offered various science related courses and hence appeared for their entrance exam. I scored well and got a seat in Bachelor of Agriculture (B. Sc. Ag) – quite an unusual subject for someone who had never been to a farm or village earlier!
It was a fully residential 4-year course and seemed just the right thing for me as I wanted to move away from my surroundings and prove myself. My mother did not hesitate to send me to a residential college and that again helped strengthen my self-belief in my capabilities.
I believe those 4 years were instrumental in shaping my career, and in some ways, helped me take charge of my life and made me what I am today!
Being away from the comforts of home, living with strangers (some of whom soon became close friends!) and staying focused on my studies, I learnt to adjust and grow in any circumstances. Throughout the 8 semesters, I scored well and passed with high grades.
What were the drivers that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
I think I didn’t choose my career, my career chose me. In my school years, I wanted to be a dancer and a doctor. That didn’t happen! I just embraced the opportunities that came my way, learnt from my environment and kept moving ahead. There was a desire to do something which makes this world a better place. I have always liked to explore the unknown, travel to new places and be open to possibilities.
Wherever I have reached professionally, it was because I was not stuck to any particular idea. If I missed an opportunity, I immediately started finding the next one. I had never thought of being in a finance related field. However now that I am in it, I truly enjoy it and use my skills and network to help those who are underprivileged.
I am grateful to my supervisors who invested in me. I have tried my best to learn from them- be it technical skills or leadership values.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
In the last year of graduation, I had to decide on my next step. Though there were some on-campus jobs on offer, but I was keen to study more. There were broadly two routes to take- either pursue higher degrees in science and take up a research/ teaching career, or go for management courses. Though I loved science, I decided to try for MBA entrance exams as I wanted to start earning a good salary as soon as possible.
Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand, which is one of its kind of management institutions offering post-graduation in rural management, was a dream destination for several agriculture students in Pantnagar. It was known to offer quality education and excellent job placements with leading community-based and food processing companies.
At that time, IIM Ahmedabad had also started a specialised agri business management course and that was on top of everyone’s mind. The admission was offered through the CAT exam.
I appeared for entrance exams of both institutions, however could not qualify for IIM(A) but got through IRMA. And I was quite elated with this! Now when I look back, I feel that it happened for the better because I felt strongly connected to IRMA’s social purpose and their objectives.
In the first few months of our course at IRMA, we had to work with a community based organization and stay in a village household. I worked with an NGO and stayed with a family in a village in Sehore district, near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. This month-long stay with a village family with humble means gave us a thorough understanding of life in rural areas – their hardships, their determination, and their capability to stay happy in difficult circumstances!
In the second year of the course, I did my summer internship at Infrastructure Development Finance Limited (IDFC), along with four other students. We were all working on finding business opportunities for agri infrastructure financing in various parts of North India. I was placed at their corporate office in Delhi. The supervisor there was a mid-level lady professional, and she appreciated my diligence and work. She was smart, intelligent, and independent. I also traveled with her to a few cities for official meetings and that gave me a glimpse into corporate life. I aspired to be like her some day.
With a combination of degrees in agriculture and management, I was aiming to make a career in agri business management- which would have a social purpose as well as help me make good money. Some of my IRMA seniors were working in procurement and marketing positions with Amul, NDDB, HUL, P&G, ITC and I too wanted to take that path.
In 2002, I got my first job as Management Trainee at Exim Bank through IRMA campus placements. Exim Bank is a highly reputed financial institution under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance. They were setting up a new unit for financing agri exporters and they selected me to be part of that unit. I moved to Mumbai for this job and was very fortunate to be living in a fully furnished apartment near Worli, which I shared with three other girls.
I was one of the first hires for this new Agri Business Financing Unit, working under a highly experienced career banker who was our Head. Since our team was so lean, I got personal attention from him and he trained me in financial analysis, risk assessment, banking practices, legal terms related to banking, etc. He was extremely kind and explained to us the unique aspects of each of the financing proposals that we processed.
I was having perhaps the best time of my life in Mumbai- having fun with my roommates who are now friends for life and learning so much every day at my job. I enrolled in French Language courses and completed 2 levels. Somehow, there was a desire to have an international career, and knowledge of different languages would definitely improve my chances. As some of my colleagues were doing a few courses from the Indian Institute of Banking, I also did the same. It helped me strengthen my knowledge about various aspects of Banking.
However, after working for two years at Exim Bank, I started to feel that I wanted to do something more and join an organization where my hard work could be more suitably rewarded.
Some of the private sector banks were expanding rapidly at that time. Many of us started to get calls from headhunters who were promising us new jobs with higher salaries. I appeared for an interview with HDFC Bank- while the interviewers appreciated my banking knowledge, they expressed regret to me as they thought I was perhaps too fun loving and would not be serious about work. I didn’t agree with their assessment, but I took that in my stride.
After a few weeks, I was interviewed by ICICI Bank at their huge corporate office at Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai. I remember I was highly impressed by the energy of that place. ICICI Bank was expanding its Rural, Micro Banking and Agri business Department and they were hiring several agri graduates with management degrees. I knew many of my IRMA seniors were already working there. I was selected for a role under the Agri Commodity Financing Unit and I was extremely excited to accept their offer. While they offered me three times my salary at Exim Bank, they did not provide any accommodation, so I had to arrange one for myself.
My seniors at Exim Bank were extremely kind and advised me to stay back. They told me that I would have a bright future there and in the long run, I would appreciate the non-cash benefits of Exim Bank’s job. However, at that time, I was too excited to be joining a bigger and widely expanding Bank. But now when I look back at my friends who stayed back at Exim Bank, I feel they made a good decision.
Moving from Exim Bank to ICICI Bank was quite a transition for me. From a fully furnished accommodation at Worli, I moved to a humble studio at Vakola. From a four-member team, I was now a part of close to a 100-member team. There was a lot of positive energy and healthy competition in the department. The department was providing banking facilities to agri corporates, co-operatives, agri input suppliers, agri equipment manufacturers, farmers, rural women, etc. We were processing working capital, term loans and transaction banking facilities- which offered immense opportunities to learn banking and understand various complexities related to it.
Constantly working towards new client acquisition and over-achieving the targets was the mantra of life! Everyone was motivated to perform better and deliver more as management was kind with annual bonuses and promotions. Many of my colleagues were spending all their waking hours at the office as we had a good canteen and gym within the building. I, however, did not like to do late nights every day. Working late once or twice a week and then dining out with friends was good for me.
At ICICI Bank, I was working under a lady who was a few years senior to me. She was super smart and great fun to be with. In her, I saw a high-performing professional who was balancing work and family quite well. She was very much like what I wanted to be in the future. When I decided to move to Delhi to get married, she helped me with the transfer to ICICI Bank’s North Zone Regional Office at Delhi.
In Delhi, I continued working with the same department. The North Zone head was an experienced banker who was very knowledgeable and gentle. Under his guidance, I was managing key relationships with some of the largest agribusiness firms in North India. Most of the well-known food processing companies and agri trading firms were our clients. Life was getting busier with added responsibilities at home. I was no longer living alone and was conscious that I had to spare time for family as well. However, doing good at work was always my top priority. I was also quite punctual and was never late for office, despite all the morning traffic in Delhi. I loved Monday mornings and many people thought I was a workaholic. I was not a workaholic; I just loved my work!
As I grew senior, I got my team and gradually I was the Regional Head for Delhi and neighbouring areas. I was promoted to Chief Manager position. I worked closely with my team, training them like I was trained by my seniors and encouraging them to always do their best. I loved leading a team and aspiring to achieve more together.
After over 3 years of work, I was again feeling the need to change my role. ICICI Bank is such a big institution with several different functions, I was nurturing ideas to join some other department through internal job postings.
At the same time, my husband, who worked with a leading market research company, got an opportunity to move to Dubai. The role and the remuneration both were quite exciting. However, he was not able to make up his mind as he didn’t want to leave his parents behind, and he was also concerned about my career. He very well knew that my work was a high priority for me and didn’t want to create any hurdles for me.
Interestingly, I was more eager than him to move to Dubai. I was enamoured by the potential exposure to international culture and multinational companies in Dubai. ICICI Bank had a branch in Dubai and my seniors accepted my request for a transfer there. However, they did warn me that I may not experience such rapid career growth in Dubai as I was getting in India. That didn’t bother me much and we soon moved to Dubai.
Dubai is a great place to live. Indians can feel so much at home there but still get a flavour of Middle Eastern and Western cultures. My husband and I were happy with the move. We even got a visa for his parents, so they too moved with us.
At Dubai, I was working to provide banking services to Non-Resident Indians living in the UAE. It was a completely different business line and I got exposure to retail banking there. In terms of learning, it was good, but business volume was not like India. So in just a few months, I was wishing for more.
One of my ex-colleagues from the Mumbai office who was now with ICICI Bank, Hong Kong branch approached me for a role in her team there. We had not even completed two years in Dubai, but on my insistence, my family agreed to move to Hong Kong. Given my love for experiencing various cultures and taking up new challenges, I just could not let this opportunity pass by! This time, my husband’s company was generous, and they transferred him to Hong Kong to be with me.
The fact that both of us were supported by our employers when we needed them, shows that consistent high performance, good relations with supervisors and staying with one organization for long definitely has its merits.
In Hong Kong, I was leading the team that managed relationships with Export Credit Agencies and Multilateral financial institutions. Our goal was to raise funding from these agencies and deploy them for projects in India. Hong Kong’s Banking regulator was also quite progressive and demanding, resulting in increased focus on compliance for all the Banks operating there. This was the first time I was working on international treasury transactions and every day was full of excitement and learning. Along with my core responsibility, I was also taking interest in other management related tasks. The branch was like a small bank operating in a foreign land and for anyone who was eager to learn more, there was so much to absorb from- like corporate banking, retail banking, treasury, operations, risk management, compliance, etc.
While I was loving the work and life in Hong Kong, one of my IRMA friends who was working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank Group at Delhi suggested that I apply for a job opening in her team. The role was to promote agri finance related investment and advisory opportunities with IFC investments in South Asia.
True to my nature, I decided to explore the opportunity. Even though I didn’t want to give up my life in Hong Kong, the thought of working for the World Bank Group was hard to resist! Knowing that each of the vacancies at such organizations gets hundreds of applications, I thought I may not get selected but no harm in trying. I have always believed that the interview process is quite enriching even if we do not get the job!
To my surprise, I was not just shortlisted but even selected for the role after going through the process of 13 interviews in which 19 people interacted with me! Getting a job offer from IFC was like a dream come true. It is one of the most admired developmental finance institutions with the best of the talent aspiring to work there. The job was in Delhi and I was not completely convinced to leave Hong Kong.
This time, my husband helped me resolve my doubts. Being back in Delhi with our friends and family was something to look forward to. He also made me understand that such job offers are not easy to come by. I had already spent more than 8 years with ICICI and worked in various roles and geographies, so it was time to move on.
I joined IFC in early 2013 and worked there for seven years. IFC has a multicultural team, international presence and unique combination of development and commercial offerings. I started at IFC with a focus on agri-finance but gradually expanded to microfinance and SME financing. I also developed a deep interest in women focused financial services. Around us, we all have seen several women and other customer segments who do not have easy access to affordable financial services or do not have adequate knowledge of financial products. As a result, they are unable to manage their personal finances and are unable to benefit from opportunities around them. I partnered with several financial institutions across India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc to develop financial awareness training and appropriate financial services for the underserved.
Microfinance has emerged as one of the effective ways of providing formal finance to low-income households by primarily focusing on women. The model which is most common in India and neighbouring countries is to organize women in groups of 10-20 wherein they guarantee the repayment from each other for the loan being given to them. The responsibility to assess the appropriate loan amount and each other’s repayment capacity remains with the group. Its this peer pressure which ensures that all women in the group monitor each other and repayments are made timely.
There has been criticism of microfinance because the interest rates are relatively high but it’s also been seen that it has brought millions of households under the ambit of formal finance and provided them with livelihood opportunities.
IFC has been one of the strategic investors in the microfinance sector, particularly after the Andhra crisis when most of the investors were moving away from it. IFC invested in several of the leading and emerging Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) of India. Some of them have graduated to Banks in the last few years.
My stint at IFC coincided with this period and I was part of the team supporting investee MFIs in refining their overall business model, developing appropriate financial products, strong risk management practices, digital transformation, etc. I travelled to remote branches of these MFIs to interact with their staff and customers. This helped me understand the financial challenges of low-income households and devise ways of enhancing their financial capabilities. When the basic livelihood needs are taken care of, they start focusing on savings, education, health, asset creation etc; and thus moving towards a better life.
I got truly international experience at IFC. My colleagues, who were from different countries, had studied at some of the best universities globally. I was surrounded by smart and sophisticated people all the time. I was quick to understand that I had to invest more time in enhancing my knowledge and technical skills. Our annual visits to IFC HQ at Washington DC enhanced our knowledge, networks and experiences.
During this period, I enrolled for Executive Education in Inclusive Finance from Harvard Business School, USA. I also completed Green Banking certification from Germany and Independent Directors Certification from Institute of Directors, India.
In 2020, I moved to the United Nations based Better Than Cash Alliance (the Alliance). I moved there to work with the Govt of India’s Ministry of Finance on matters related to financial inclusion, fintech and digital economy. This was an exciting proposition for me as I had never ever worked inside the Government. Soon I was seconded to the Ministry and I was working with the senior officials at North Block, Rashtrapati Bhawan. I was advising the Ministry on matters related to G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI). It was a matter of prestige to be part of a team representing India at international forums.
Due to the growing importance of fintech and digital financial services, I did the Fintech course from Said Business School, Oxford University, UK. I was aware of most of the concepts that we discussed in this course, but it surely enhanced my perspective on digital matters and fintech related business opportunities while brainstorming with the Professors and co-participants.
In 2021, I transitioned to another role with more responsibilities at the Alliance. I continue to work with the Ministry of Finance and also engage with other Ministries like the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and several State Governments to promote digital payments adoption across the country.
I also work with Alliance’s global team on adoption of digital payments by merchants in Africa and few other Asian countries. I lead the learning initiatives at Alliance and design learning activities and experiences for Alliance team and its members.
How did you get your first break?
My IDFC supervisor and I kept in touch through emails. IDFC came to IRMA for campus placement for the first time in my passing out year.
When the schedule for placement interviews was announced, IDFC was second in the schedule and we had another first-time visiting organization, Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) placed at the top of the schedule. Exim Bank was planning to get into agri banking and came to IRMA to start a team for this new initiative.
Given the social focus of IRMA, not many corporates were invited to join campus placements and both these organizations attracted almost every student’s attention. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was another reputed organization which came for campus placement for the first time to hire for their microfinance operations. Of course, there were several other organizations which were hiring from IRMA every year.
All students were supposed to select their top 3 preferences for the organizations they wanted to be interviewed with. This helped the placement committee schedule the interviews in advance. I chose IDFC (there was already an informal offer made to me during summer training), Exim Bank (loved their pitch presentation and prospect of working in Mumbai was quite exciting!) and SIDBI (job location was Lucknow, so I could be back home).
In a strange turn of events, I was the first of my batch to be selected by Exim Bank and that restricted me from appearing for other interviews unless I decided to not take Exim Bank’s offer. While there was an initial disappointment for missing my chance with IDFC, I was extremely excited that I would soon be moving to Mumbai for this job and be on my own! Also, the thought of doing a finance related job, made me feel good about myself.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: Finding my way on my own- I had lost my father in my school years and I was the eldest child in the family, I had no one to guide me on my career choices. Other than the traditional options of being a doctor or engineer, no one in my family had knowledge of other career options. I had to research options and decide what would work for me, all by myself. My mother supported me emotionally and financially, but all decisions were made by me. This gave me a huge sense of responsibility from quite a young age.
Challenge 2: Keeping myself ahead of the competition- I have always liked to be better than others. All my career moves were driven by the desire to be a better version of myself. Throughout my career, I was surrounded by smart and intelligent people. I didn’t want to be an under-performer and thus kept adding to my skills through challenging assignments and Executive Education courses. Learning never stops and it’s important to continue learning about the latest innovations and industry trends, else we will soon become obsolete.
Challenge 3: Not always conforming to social norms for women: Our society often has different expectations from men and women. In many households, working women are expected to be always available for their families, irrespective of their professional responsibilities. Men often do not have such pressure. In my case my family also understood that my work gives me immense pleasure and they didn’t place any undue burden of family responsibilities on me.
I have two sons and I cherish all my time with them. I have spent several evenings working late at the office and have traveled extensively for my assignments. I did this because I enjoyed it while being fully aware that this means lesser time with my family. I am lucky to have an ever-helpful husband and excellent family support so my kids were always in good hands. Thankfully, technology helps us stay connected all the time. No matter where I am, we always find time to discuss their studies, extra-curricular activities, friends and other topics of their interest. My sons are proud of me and never appreciate the idea of me staying at home all the time. Their unconditional love and smiles encourage me to keep achieving more.
Several working women tend to feel guilty when they don’t get to spend all their time with their children. I too had such feelings when I went back to work after my first son was born but soon, I overcame them. I like to give myself fully at work and compete fairly. Since no one can be at two places at the same time, it’s good to understand that we have to continuously prioritize critical elements of our lives and doing it well is the secret to a happy and satisfied life! We all have the potential to make intelligent choices and not feel guilty about them.
Challenge 4: Joining a new organization during COVID lockdown period: My exit from IFC and entry into the current job coincided with the COVID induced lockdown. I could not meet my colleagues at IFC before leaving but I have kept in touch with my friends there.
At the Alliance, I am yet to meet several of my colleagues as we continue to work from home. It was challenging to settle in a new organization in a remote working environment. I was conscious of the various anxieties that all of us were going through during the lockdown period. I tried my best to connect with my new colleagues at a personal level and have made some friends rather quickly. I strongly believe that unless we communicate well with our team and care for each other, it will be difficult to collaborate effectively. It’s important to regularly connect with our colleagues for matters other than work- it helps build camaraderie and promotes smooth teamwork.
Where do you work now? Tell us about your role
I currently work with the United Nations based Better Than Cash Alliance. It is a partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerate the transition from cash payments to responsible digital payments to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Being part of this global organization, I work in a highly multicultural environment which I really like. Getting to know people from various cultures and learning from each others’ experiences is the best aspect of my work.
Together with our members, we advocate for responsible digitization of payments which have the potential to promote comprehensive financial inclusion of underserved segments like low-income households, women, elderly people, small enterprises, etc. This is fundamental to ensuring that the process of payment digitization is inclusive and sustainable.
For the last one year, I was seconded to the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance to advise them on matters related to digital financial inclusion, digital economy, fintech and G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion. It was an enriching experience to work with the Finance Minister’s team and work on promoting digital payments when the Government prioritizes digital transfer of direct benefits to citizens.
After completing my secondment to the Ministry, I am now working with a few state governments on initiatives related to payments digitization of small and micro merchants, with specific focus on the needs of women. I also work with my global team on similar initiatives in other countries in Asia and Africa.
Along with this, I am leading an initiative on consolidating learnings from our initiatives and sharing it widely with our members and industry stakeholders. I am investing my time in developing a new Learning Management System through which digital learning courses can be offered and also collaborating with my colleagues to write learning blogs.
To be able to do this job well, I believe one has to be an excellent team player. Of course, having technical knowledge of matters related to digital financial inclusion and digital economy is important. But to succeed in the role, one has to be open to continuous learning, collaborate wherever possible and be ready to work across time zones. Always being ready to take up new challenges and ensuring high quality deliverables helps in earning a good reputation at work.
My work days are long, but I try my best to not work on weekends unless it’s extremely critical. Many times, I work till late evenings so that I can connect effectively with my colleagues in other continents.
Our organization has a policy of not sending any work mails on weekends, so it helps everyone relax and focus on their hobbies and families. During COVID, we were encouraged to take time off, if we need to dedicate more time to our loved ones. Colleagues are always supportive and don’t hesitate to offer help when needed.
Recently, we also started a practice of having every alternate Friday as ‘no call day’ so that we can focus on completing our deliverables and not get over occupied with calls. These are some of the benefits of working in organizations which prioritize their employees’ well-being.
How does your work benefit society?
All through my career, I always found a strong purpose in my job. During my banking days at Exim Bank and ICICI Bank, I was helping flow of funds to the agri sector. The corporates, aggregators or cooperatives that I financed, were using those funds to buy agri produce from farmers. So in some ways, I was helping farmers earn better incomes.
After almost 11 years in banking when I moved to IFC, World Bank Group, my energies were focused on providing funding to micro enterprises and low-income households, with special focus on women. If we look around us, there are numerous underprivileged women who work long hours to be able to provide good food and education to their children. Unfortunately, many of them have no assets and not enough control on their earnings due to the patriarchal nature of our society. Through my work at IFC, I worked with organizations who could finance these women without asking for collateral, helped enhance their skills and supported growth of their micro enterprises. It gave me immense satisfaction that I could help these highly deserving women do better – both socially and economically.
Now at the Better Than Cash Alliance/ UN, I am working on the right usage of technology to reduce inequalities in the world. In the last few years, our lives have transformed as part of this digital world, but again many people are left behind either due to lack of access to the digital world or due to lack of awareness of their rights and responsibilities. So, focusing on underserved segments and advocating for their rights in terms of data privacy, transparency, knowledge of complaint redressal procedures, etc is of high priority. Working with various Governments, international organizations, industry associations, global forums, etc, I am contributing to making this a world which offers equal opportunities to all humans.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
At Exim Bank, the first financing proposal that I worked on was from a farmers’ association at a village near Dimapur, Nagaland. The farmers had started a fruit processing facility and applied for a term loan to buy advanced machinery. None of the banks were keen on financing them as it was a new business and was run by a team which didn’t have technical skills. Exim Bank came forward to lend them. I visited Dimapur as part of the due diligence and got a chance to meet the villagers there. It was quite satisfying to be able to lend to farmers who were trying to set up an enterprise in a remote village to improve the livelihoods of local people.
Another assignment which turned out to be personally very gratifying was my engagement with a well-known women’s association which works for the socio-economic upliftment of low-income women. Working with them, I got a close glimpse of the lives of low-income women and their day-to-day struggles- not just financial insecurity but also for their social dignity. I worked with them to help them secure financial facilities for their micro enterprises and also supported them in sharpening their business models. I got a chance to work with this organization at IFC and ever since then, I continue to find opportunities to engage with them.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Dream big and work hard to make your dreams a reality.
Always keep a positive attitude, find an opportunity in everything that comes your way and continue to sharpen your skills.
It doesn’t matter if any of your plans didn’t materialize, start afresh and keep striving. There is no dearth of opportunities in today’s world.
Never doubt your potential. Perseverance and diligence can do wonders for anyone.
In all this, never forget to have FUN! Relax and recharge yourself whenever you feel the need for it.
And last one for all the girls who want to make it big in life…don’t let ANYONE stop you!!
In the future, I want to continue learning and working for the larger good of the society. It could be contributing through my job or engaging myself further in social welfare activities.
I also think of starting my own enterprise focused on enhancing skills of women and youth from underprivileged backgrounds. If I can help people realise their true potential and lead better lives, I would feel I have achieved something in life!
I also wish to travel to far-off places to experience various cultures. Learning a musical instrument is also on my wish list.