Friday, February 01, 2013

“Every Challenge is an Experience" – Inspiring Story of Narendra, Manager turned Leader

M. Narendra

When the nation is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda (original name Narendra), we feature another  Narendra, who transformed himself from a manager to a leader.  Narendra, presently the Chairman and Managing Director of the public sector, Indian Overseas Bank, has almost doubled the business within two years of his taking charge, galvanising 27000-plus employees, who lacked motivation in the past decade. 

Galvanising Indian Overseas Bank

From the day of his taking charge of the bank in November 2010, he tapped the potential of every employee, towards better business growth.  His initiatives like involving the employees in every aspect of management function, empowering women to become senior officials, large scale promotions, and communication with front line staff, created a conducive atmosphere for excellent growth and customer delight. Even today, if one checks up with any employee of Indian Overseas Bank at field level, they would proudly accept him as ‘leader’.  How did he get transformed from a ‘Manager’ to a ‘Leader’?

Parents as Role Models

Narendra, born into a middle class family in a village near Mangalore (Karnataka), converted every challenge into an opportunity for success.  According to Narendra, his parents, Shri M Shankaranarayana Ayya and Smt. M. Sumathi were his role models and they played a great role in moulding him.

“My father was a teacher.  He was the Head Master of a High School at Suratkal.  He was a Gandhian and a great admirer of Swami Vivekananda.  That is why I was named after Vivekananda’s original name” said Narendra, proudly recalling his early days.

His mother Smt M. Sumathi, besides looking after the big family, was engaged in women welfare.  She headed the Mahila Mandal for more than 25 years in that locality and devoted her time for the welfare of poor and downtrodden women.

“I learnt about the importance of knowledge, discipline, time management and perfectionism from my father, and leadership qualities and passion for service to the society from my mother.  These qualities have always helped me to become successful, braving all challenges”, Narendra says with emotion. 

Early Days – Passionate Student

Narendra completed his B.Com with a University rank.  His ambition was to become a Chartered Accountant.  He joined a Chartered Accountancy firm.  Meanwhile, in 1975, the then Private Sector Corporation Bank offered him a job as Officer-trainee, since he was a University Rank holder.  He discontinued CA and joined the Bank.  He pursued law (L.L.B) as a part-time student, attending the classes both in the mornings and in the evenings, outside the office time.  Again, he secured a University rank in law also.  He also completed his banking diploma CAIIB with a top rank at the national level.  “Though I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant, I started my journey as a banker”, says Narendra.

Tips to Manage Challenges

Narendra’s journey in the banking career was not without challenges.  After joining Corporation Bank in 1975, he rose to the level of Chief General Manager in the Bank.  Then, he was posted as Executive Director of Bank of India.  After a brief stint there, he was posted to Indian Overseas Bank in November 2010 as Chairman, which post he still continues to hold.  He will retire from the bank in less than two years. 

“To become a leader is not an easy one.  There may be a lot of frustrating moments for any person in any profession.  Your good and sincere efforts may not get recognised; your trusted close friends may ditch you; your boss may get angry without reason; your minor mistakes may get projected as major issues; there may be caste and communal politics in the organisation.  Every such moment is a testing time for us.  We need to learn to manage such challenges without getting upset. Every challenge is an experience.  Leave it to God.  Continue to do your work with all sincerity.  A time will come when you will be recognised and rewarded”, says Narendra after a deep pause.

Mentoring and Learning

Narendra recalls how his father used to review his performance frequently, even when he (Narendra) was holding the position of General Manager and mentor him to manage the challenges and to go to the next level.  Narendra emphasises the need for good parenting, and parents becoming role models for children.

Narendra says that whenever he meets the customers, he learns from their success and failure stories.  Even from the routine business meetings, he picks up  a message for life.

Though there were offers to join Private Banks at the top level with a huge salary, he refused to join them.  “Public Sector is my passion.  Public Sector banks give more opportunities to support farmers, small industries and nation building.  We should not forget the roots from where we have come” says Narendra passionately.

He wants to focus on education and social service after his retirement from the Bank. He wants to continue the initiatives his parents had started.  


“While my parents have played the role of the mentor, my wife is playing a supportive role throughout my banking career.” Concludes Narendra with tears rolling in his cheek as a mark of gratitude.

Within two years of his joining Indian Overseas Bank, he is able to nearly double the business and bring in a new environment galvanising the entire bank. His new slogan “Energy, energise, execute and excel” has become the new mantra to all his colleagues to continue their journey in nation-building and self-improvement. 

PodUniversal Edition 160

Please listen to his inspiring interview (13 minutes).  His interview may also be listened at 


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