It was always going to be tough deciding who from the category of business would be the best candidate for the Indian of the Year. Just look at the options.
There is the publicity-shy Mukesh Ambani who lets his millions talk for him. There is then his estranged younger brother, Anil Ambani, who is not afraid of publicity. But equally successful, if not more.
Flashier than anyone in this circle, Vijay Mallya, was also a contender and he has had an extremely eventful year. Or, how about Sunil Bharti Mittal, who determines how most of the country talks? And then there was Kumar Mangalam Birla, who has turned his company into a world player.
But the winner from the category is a person who is not half as famous as any of them. No, he is not completely unheard of, but relatively. And he is the State Bank of India chairman Om Prakash Bhatt.
Bhatt in now in race for the Indian of the Year award instituted by CNN-IBN in partnership with the Hindustan Times. In the fray are P Chidambaram, who has been declared winner in the category of politicians, and yet-to-be announced winners of the remaining categories: sports, entertainment, public service and NRIs.
HDFC chairman and member of the jury Deepak Parekh said of Bhatt: “OP Bhatt has proved that given the constraints of working in the public sector one can move forward….he has improved the results of the bank and has put State Bank of India on the global map.”
Other members of the jury are lawyer Soli Sorabjee, actor Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair, Hindustan Times Media Limited vice-chairperson and editorial director Shobhana Bhartia, Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani, Billiards champion Geet Sethi and former police officer Kiran Bedi. The jury complements the selection process; the other leg of which is voting by people.
Bhatt started off as a probationary officer in the State Bank of Indian in 1972 and worked his way up the ladder. He served as managing director of Bank of Travancore from January 2005 to April 2006.
Bhatt returned to state bank in 2006 as managing director and was named the chairman of the country’s largest bank in June. He is credited with initiating a series of measures equipping the bank to fight its more agile private sector rivals.
Corporate financing is being accorded top priority as the bank prepares to enter several new areas. The bank needs to do a lot and Bhatt, experts say, is the right man for the tough climb ahead.