At home with work
Our names are commonplace. There are so many Manishas and Sanjay Agarwals in the world that if we were ever in a plane crash, nobody would know it was us,” jokes 38-year-old Manisha Girotra, managing director and chairperson of UBS Securities India.
But Girotra and husband Sanjay, managing director and head of global corporate finance for Deutsche Bank, India, are anything but commonplace — they are what the business world refers to as a ‘power couple’, despite Girotra’s protests.
“You are banned from using the term, ‘power couple’, in your feature,” she says, in between celebrating an employee’s birthday at UBS’s Nariman Point office and planning her next big deal.
“We are just another ordinary couple,” says the mother of a five-year-old, who was instrumental in striking some of the most high-profile deals of 2007 — Vodafone-Essar, Hindalco-Novelis, UB-Whyte & Mackay, and Essar Algoma.
Among her biggest competitors is husband, Sanjay, who she met while they were both employed at Grindlays Bank. “If I lose business to him, he just doesn’t get breakfast the next morning,” she jokes. On a more serious note, she says, “We’ve been in the business long enough — Sanjay for 20 years and I for 17 years — to separate the professional space from the personal. Besides, after a gruelling workday, who wants to carry work home?”
And yet, her five-year-old daughter Tara is miraculously familiar with concepts like ‘road shows’ and ‘client meetings’.
It’s probably genetic. Tara wants to be a banker when she grows up, and Girotra raises her eyebrows in silent protest but concedes, “It’s better than being a hairdresser, which was her choice of career at the age of three,” she says. “Besides, my mother never told me what to do, though doing nothing was not an option either. There was no slack time after college, no talk of getting married and being a housewife,” she recalls.
So this Delhi School of Economics graduate became a banker, with stints at Grindlays, Barclays and finally, at UBS in 1998.
“I’ve been here 10 years, and grown with the organisation. It’s an employee-friendly firm with a human face,” she says.
Does she believe women make better bankers? “There is no gender-based norm, but patience and perseverance are vital in this field,” she says, but offers, “Deals can be time-consuming, ranging from a month to two years. Women tend to show more doggedness and commitment in seeing a deal through.”
She feels passionately for working women, and is always keen to hire more women employees in her organisation. “I belong to the first generation that saw many women working for reasons other than to supplement their husband’s income. It’s a sea change from 10 years ago, and I’m only glad. More power to working women.”
Her single-mindedness cowers slightly only when her mind wanders back to her daughter Tara. “It takes a lot of guts to leave your child behind for three months and go on a business trip,” she says.
“It’s very difficult to juggle work and children, and I must say that it’s only because of Sanjay’s support that I have been able to come this far.”
But business is not the only arena in which Girotra and herhusband compete. Five years ago, when Tara was born, Girotra fancied the name, Maya (a Sanskrit word that means illusion) while Sanjay wanted to name their daughter Tara. “Sanjay reasoned with me, saying, “We chase money all day; lets not have Maya at home.” His choice prevailed,” she recalls.
In matters personal, she may have agreed to be reasoned with, but when it comes to business, Girotra is a tough nut to crack. Ask her who’s the better banker between her husband and her, and she says, “Of course, I am. But if you ask Sanjay, he’ll say it’s him.”