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Madhabi Puri-Buch: 'I always wanted to be able to make a difference'
Prasanna Zore
Every time Madhabi Puri Buch, chief executive officer and managing director of ICICI Securities gets a new assignment this is what she tells herself and her teammates: Nothing is rocket science; we can learn this; we can do it.

And she has adorned many an important posts in her 16-year-long career in ICICI Bank. Before her current assignment Madhabi was an executive director on the board of ICICI Bank. She has also been at the helm of the bank as head of global operations covering retail, corporate, rural and international banking and also the chief brand officer of ICICI Group.

As part of our Women's Day coverage Prasanna D Zore spoke to Madhabi Puri-Buch on her career growth in ICICI Bank, the influences in her life, the lessons she learnt and her advice to young Indians who fear job layoffs.

Her advice to employees in a nutshell is: It is now more important than any other time to deliver.

Early influences in life

I was very fortunate to have a set of parents who not only believed in education but very much believed in their two daughters being individuals in their own right and having an identity of their own. My father worked in the corporate sector and my mother was an academic who did her doctorate in political science. So education and career were very much the part of the environment and I think it makes a difference as you grow up seeing that and it becomes a part of you.

I went to the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Delhi. A workshop conducted by Sister Mercedes helped us think through as to what we wanted in life. It just made me realise with even more conviction that I always wanted to be able to make a difference, leave an impact, no matter how small or how big.

I had a strong, independent mind right from my school days; at least my teachers would say that. In Class XII I was a complete nerd, with big spectacles, a real bookworm; I must admit that I studied really hard. Outside of academics I very much enjoyed debating as it helped me form a point of view, express it and convince a hall full of people; it was really challenging and enjoyable.

You completed your graduation in mathematical economics. What motivated to choose this stream?

It was an honours course in mathematics with economics as a subsidiary subject. While I was really fond of mathematics, what was all the rage when I studied in St Stephen's College, Delhi, was economics. So everybody wanted to do economics and I too had the required marks to be called for an interview.

But unfortunately just three days before the interview I was very seriously ill with jaundice -- of course I was busy eating all kinds of street food which I still haven't stopped because I believe you need to build your immunity -- and I was admitted to a hospital. The doctor didn't allow me to go for the economics interview and so I couldn't get admission.

Fortunately, the mathematics interview was scheduled a few days later and despite not keeping too well -- the doctor advised me against it but still I went for an interview with drips sticking out of the hand. You can let one opportunity go; you can't let every opportunity go.

My parents, on the other hand, were really very supportive as they understood that I really wanted to do it.

While I loved mathematics too I would not hesitate to tell my teachers that I didn't understand a particular economic model, please explain it again because I was confident that if they will explain it again I would understand complex topics like quantitative modelling and algorithms.

Text: Prasanna Zore
Image: Madhabi Puri-Buch
Photographs: GR8!TV Magazine
Also read: GR8! Awards: Celebrating India's most accomplished women
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