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K. V. Kamath - The elder statesman

May 14, 2008

Kundapur Vaman Kamath, 60, MD and CEO of ICICI Bank, the second-largest bank in the country, has now turned his de facto position as one of India Inc.’s elder statesmen into a de jure one—he recently donned the mantle of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) President for 2008-09.

K. V. Kamath
K. V. Kamath
That happened in the first week of May, when he succeeded another stalwart, Sunil Bharti Mittal. This IIM-A graduate, whose every professional move is closely watched, and emulated, by his competitors, will now play bigger role and take up larger policy issues relating to Indian industry at large. In fact, the workaholic Kamath got down to work on the very day he took over the presidency.

His agenda: to build a talent pool in the country. Under his leadership, CII will take up a national-level skills development programme, which will look at building a bank of skilled manpower for industry. He also struck the right chord when he said that CII would address the issue of wage inflation. “If India has to maintain its competitiveness in the world markets, we cannot have a wage inflation of 12-15 per cent per annum,” he said.

Name: Kundapur Vaman Kamath

Age: 60

Designation: MD & CEO

Company: ICICI Bank
Kamath, who joined ICICI in 1971 when it was a development financial institution and spent his initial days in its project finance division, says: “We have not created a big enough pool of skilled labour.”

The ICICI Bank boss’s accession to top job at CII is the icing on the cake for a man who has practically defined the rules of private sector banking in the country. During his tenure at the top, he has set a scorching pace of growth that has ensured handsome returns for all stakeholders. Now, the ICICI Group has a dominant presence across almost all the niches of the financial services industry—from banking to investment banking to asset management, insurance, venture capital financing and microfinance.

He has also successfully groomed a second line of leadership, which will ensure that there is no vacuum whenever Kamath decides to move on. For now, though, he has no plans of walking into the sunset. He is determined to make a difference in his new role as the top honcho of CII. And given his track record at ICICI Bank, not many are betting that he won’t.

Anand Adhikari

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