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Gentleman banker

M. V. Nair, CMD of Union Bank, is the only Malayali heading a public sector bank now. In a freewheeling chat with PREMA MANMADHAN he talks about society's changing mentality towards saving



The only Malayali heading a public sector bank. Sounds good to us Keralites. But Mavila Viswanathan Nair, CMD of Union Bank, seems to take it in his stride. The native of Kasargode who grew up in Mangalore looked relaxed despite a tight schedule and never once looked at his watch during the interview.

Of youth and banks

But what about the youngsters who are under great pressure to meet their targets amidst stiff competition in the banking and similar fields? You wonder if it will break them, if it will hit their family life, if at all it is a healthy trend. Mr Nair feels it is part of the change in society and there is no need to fret over it. "Every 18 years, they say habits change and the previous generation worries about Gen Next. A changing society always adjusts itself. Just look at the youth. If they work in one institution for two years they think it is high time they moved," he pointed out.

"Earlier people saved and bought a two wheeler or a car or a house. But now people buy first and pay EMIs. That is the main difference. While it was infra dig to borrow earlier, today, there is hardly anybody without a loan. The first thing youngsters do when they get a job is to take a loan and buy a vehicle. They take a loan even for the honeymoon," he said, of the changes that have taken place in the saving patterns of people. When all their essential needs are met, then they start saving. The best thing about this change is that youth are very ambitious and they work very hard, for the EMIs are always in their mind. As they are open to changes, they can't have a laid back style of work, as a next job is always round the corner.

That is why banks are targeting the youth now, he remarked. Conventional banks are also changing to fit into the scene by opening some branches till 8 pm, to face the competition from new generation banks. Technology was the only drawback, but now, the old generation banks have almost caught up with the new, in that area. The transition phase is tough on everybody, he agreed, but it is inevitable.

How come Malayalis who have made it good in business are rare, though there are any number of them doing well in different fields, as in IT? P.N.C. Menon of Shobha Developers just made it to the Forbes 500, the only Malayali so far. Mr Nair feels the environment in Kerala does not encourage enterprise and risk taking is not exactly a Malayali's USP. He attributed his own rise to this post through dint of hard work. "I was ambitious and worked hard. I was also in an organisation (Corporation Bank) where merit was rewarded. In short I was at the right place at the right time and had God's blessings," he said.

Power for women

Mr. Nair was all praise for women power. Empowering women in rural areas has done a lot to change the lives in rural India. The rural self-help groups in the banking sector are headed by women largely. Almost 80 per cent of them are women, he said.

A man with a very busy schedule, Mr Nair is a through and through family man. His children, a son and a daughter are both engineering students. And what about women power in his personal life?

"I owe a lot to my wife, who took all the responsibilities at home and left me to pursue my ambition. She did not take up a career. It was her option, but maybe, if she had a career, I would not have reached where I am," he agreed with grace.

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