Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.
Chanda Kochhar is under the scanner for a ₹3,250 crore loan extended by ICICI Bank to the Videocon group of companies
Image: Vikas Khot
Bankers in India could possibly never have it worse. After years of witnessing lending decisions go awry, clients’ stretched balance sheets and higher provisioning for bad loans, events in recent weeks have become visibly ugly and strained for some.
For years, public sector banks faced the wrath of market conditions and regulators, leading to the current tipping point where privatisation and mergers of state-owned banks are being weighed. Till now, the disarray in the Indian banking sector was, at best, seen as a fallout of a larger economic slowdown; or, at worst, a case of mismanagement. There weren’t personal allegations raised against bank chieftains.
But now, the ongoing crisis has not only found its way to the doors of private lenders ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, but there are also accusations of impropriety and lapses in corporate governance.
In the case of ICICI Bank, MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar is under the scanner for a ₹3,250 crore loan extended by the bank to the Videocon Group in 2012.
Earlier, Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar had started a joint venture, NuPower Renewables, with Venugopal Dhoot. The Videocon promoter allegedly loaned Kochhar ₹64 crore through his company Supreme Energy and then transferred its ownership to Deepak Kochhar for ₹9 lakh. ICICI’s Videocon loan, in 2017, turned into a non-performing asset (NPA).
The matter was brought to light by investor Arvind Gupta in a blog post in March 2016 and was recently widely reported by the media. Kochhar has denied any wrongdoing and the bank has said, in a press statement on March 28, that while Chanda Kochhar was part of the credit committee meeting which evaluated the Videocon loan in 2012, “there was no question of any quid pro quo/nepotism/conflict of interest” and reposed full faith in her leadership. The CBI is investigating the loan transaction to understand if there was any wrongdoing.
In the case of Axis Bank, MD and CEO Shikha Sharma’s leadership has come under scrutiny after a series of weaker-than-expected earnings growth, ballooning provisioning for bad loans in recent quarters and earnings data leaks (see box).
ICICI Bank has defended Chanda Kochhar even as the CBI is examining if there was any wrongdoing