In May 2014, Chandra Kochhar received the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Global Citizenship. She was the first Indian woman to receive the award and to join the ranks of Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton. As the former chief executive officer of the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India Limited or the ICICI Bank, she pioneered the ambitious outreach program of the bank called ICICI Digital Village.
The community outreach program introduced vocational training to 17 states in India. The 11,000 villagers received training and financial tools needed to inspire them to become entrepreneurs. The ICICI Digital Village program targets to reach 500 more villages in India. Through Chandra Kochhar’s leadership, she brought the insurance business of the bank publicly and made it as India’s first IPO from a general insurer.
Chanda Kochhar was born in November 1961 in Rajasthan, India. She finished her education at the Jai Hind College in Mumbai, India. She took up Cost Accountancy at ICWAI. Eager to learn more about her degree, Kochhar pursued her master’s degree at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. As a genuinely diligent and intelligent student in Management Studies, she was awarded the Wockhardt Gold Medal. She also received the J.N.Bose gold medal award for her excellent performance in Cost Accountancy.
She was just 22 years old when she became a management trainee at ICICI Bank in 1984. After ten years of dedicated service, Kichhar was promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager. Two years after, she received another promotion and was named as the Deputy General Manager of the bank. From Deputy GM, she was promoted in 1999 as the General Manager of ICICI Bank. She was tasked to manage over 200 top clients’ accounts.
After 25 years of service to the bank, she was appointed as the chief executive officer at the age of 47. Chanda Kochhar transformed the Indian retail banking industry and changed history when she became the first Indian woman to ever lead an Indian bank. Under her leadership, the bank achieved insurmountable success. This includes business expansion, integrating innovative technology to cater to rural and urban customers, and collaboration with private and public sectors to develop more opportunities.
Young Indian women are inspired by Kochhar’s achievement in the corporate world. She encourages them to fight their inhibitions and move along even if they think that they would fail. She shared that every time she sees a challenge, she treats it as an opportunity. She said that one must find a way to transform these challenges into opportunities.
Awards and Recognition
By breaking boundaries and exceeding expectations, Chanda Kochhar received recognition from various institutions and organizations. In 2011, she was given one of the highest civilian honors in India through the Padma Bhushan. In 2014, Fortune India named her as one of the most powerful women in business. She was named as one of the top 100 most influential women in the world of 2015 by Time’s Magazine.
Forbes ranked her 36th out of the 100 most powerful women in the world in the same year. In recognition of her leading work in the financial sector; because of her effective leadership; and her fervent support for efficient business practices, Chanda Kochhar was given the honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Carleton University in Canada.