The audacious journeys often begin from the most humble beginnings and Chandra Sekhar Ghosh's is no exception.
On Sunday, when Union finance minister Arun Jaitley inaugurates Bandhan Bank, Ghosh will walk into the hall of fame of Bengali entrepreneurship as this entity founded by Ghosh will become the first bank to be founded in Bengal since Independence.
No mean feat by a 55-year old man who began his life by helping his father run a small sweetmeat shop.
Ironically, the history of entrepreneurship among Bengalis, a race not particularly known for its business acumen, does have quite a romantic examples – Dwarkanath Tagore (who owned from coal mines to banks) to Purnendu Chatterjee (George Soros associate who helped set up Haldia Petrochemicals), Sir Biren Mukherjee (owner of IISCO) to Ramdulal De Sarkar (who started maritime trade between India and Boston early in the eighteenth century).
On Sunday Ghosh will certainly take a firm step to join that league.
Bandhan Bank that Jaitley will be inaugurating has metamorphosed from Bandhan Financial Services that sunburnt, lanky Ghosh launched in November 2001 for providing finance to small and marginal women entrepreneurs to whom banks won’t lend.
In 2009, he registered Bandhan as a non-banking finance company, and in 2014 the D-day came when it bagged the banking license from Reserve Bank of India leaving behind some of the biggest names of India Inc such as Anil Ambani group, Bajaj and L&T.
The bank is starting its journey with 501 branches scattered over 27 Indian states, and according to Ghosh the number of branches will soon rise to 600. According to his plans, more than half the branches will be in areas that don't have any branch.
Ghosh will also not forget his first passion that of lending to the neglected community such as self help groups and the 'unbankable' people.
Two divisions of the bank micro finance division and general banking division will run in parallel tracks. Several management graduates from the country’s top management schools have joined Bandhan ignoring offers from MNCs.
Born in 1960 to a lower-middle class refugee family from Bangladesh, Ghosh obtained a masters degree in statistics from Dhaka University. He later worked with a Bangladesh-based NGO known as BRAC.
He returned to India in 1997 and finally in November 2001 launched Bandhan Financial Services for providing finance to small and marginal women entrepreneurs to whom banks won’t lend.
Former chief economic advisor to the union finance ministry, Ashok Lahiri is the chairman of the board while Ghosh will be the MD and CEO.
In setting up the bank in Bengal, Ghosh will be touching history in another way. Bengal is one of the seats of banking industry in the country. In June 1806 Calcutta Bank was founded in Kolkata. It eventually metamorphosed into State bank of India, the country’s largest commercial bank.