Categories
Review

Transforming Banking Practices

Book Review by Bhaskar Parichha

Title: Transformational Leadership in Banking

Author: Multiple. Edited by Anil K. Khandelwal

Publisher: SAGE Publications/ New Delhi, 2021

India’s banking system, as it has evolved in the past two hundred years, is a mixed bag. It has cooperative banks, domestic financing institutions, scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks, pre-reform traditional private sector banks, tech-savvy private banks, and foreign banks. One can add to this protracted list are the newer entities — small finance banks, payments banks, and the large number of mobile applications.

Even as India’s banking sector has expanded tremendously in the past few years, there is a lot to be desired from these financial institutions. Banks have, of late, been the government’s whipping boys, and the so-called reforms have only been half-baked. Bank mergers have taken place but they are yet to show up on their balance sheets.

While Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) have grabbed the space vacated by commercial banks, financial stability of banks is at crossroads. Monitoring and supervision have fallen drastically, reflecting in the persistent growth in Non-Performing Assets (NPAs). Post -Covid, there is an unfathomable shadow on India’s banks. It is in this scary backdrop that this book carries enormous importance. Transformational Leadership in Banking: Challenges of Governance, Leadership and HR in a Digital and Disruptive World by Anil K. Khandelwal comes in handy for the beleaguered leadership of the banking sector.

A thought leader, author, international speaker on leadership and governance, Anil K. Khandelwal is an acclaimed authority on human resource and leadership in the banking sector. He is a rare transformation leader. Transforming Bank of Baroda from a staid Public Sector Banks (PSB) to one of India’s most valuable international banks won him many awards, including the Asian Banker Singapore’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His brand of human resources leadership and its application in business turnaround also won him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Human Resource Development Network. He also chaired the government-appointed committee on HR in PSBs and was a member of the first Banks Board Bureau for banking reforms and selection of whole-time directors.

The book, as the blurb says, “offers a roadmap on leadership which is all about converting adversity into an opportunity for transformation. Through an excellent set of articles, case studies and interviews, this book offers a way forward for transformational leadership of the Indian banks.” Despite their many achievements, public sector banks continue to face several challenges, such as increasing non-performing assets, depleting market share and low market capitalization.

The volume is comprehensive because it deals with almost all aspects of Indian banking. With a Foreword by former Comptroller and Auditor General of Inida, Vinod Rai, the book has three parts. In part I there are essays from academics and practitioners. Part II deals with case studies. The last part deliberates on perspectives from experts. With  more than thirty chapters — each chapter contributed by a doyen in the banking sector and the academics — the 500 plus page book is clearly laid out with  sections on governance, leadership, human resources and of course the future of the banking environment

In the introduction, Dr Khandelwal writes: “The book comes at a time when Indian banking is undergoing crisis.” It gives a strong message that banks become robust institutions by addressing governance, leadership, talent and culture. The author’s argument is that the banking sector is likely to remain in a perpetual crisis mode, unless these measures are initiated immediately. 

The book, as the titles suggests, is on leadership in banking. Evidently, it has chapters on changing context of governance and leadership in public sector banks, the digital revolution, future of work in BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) organisations, human capital and ethical bank governance, leadership choices in building better governance in the context of regulation or culture, strategic human capital management and banking governance (unexplored symbiotic relationship in PSBs), honoring legacy while embracing evolution: (the ethics narrative in State Bank of India), leadership experience and fifteen actionable insights from the trenches, organizational transformational and an agenda for Indian banks, coaching and mentoring in the backdrop of the unsung and underutilized warriors of leadership development, grooming leaders in public sector banks, crafting and living in  bank culture et al. 

There are also some illuminating pieces on leadership in times of crisis. For example, lessons from COVID-19. Employer branding to build human capital advantage, trade unions in the digital economy, skilling  a new currency,  a new manifesto for chief human resource officers in the era of digital change, wellness and yoga investment for the bankers,HR as strategic business partner in SBI ,sustainable people processes and leadership development in Bank of Baroda, the human resources story of ICICI Bank, digital transformation of HR at Union Bank of India, fear psychosis in the executives, and  bank directors require training in specific areas of technology are the other chapters which make a value addition to the book.

In the context of competition and digitalization requiring new business models, the book argues for a fundamental shift in the structure and process of governance, including board-level autonomy, CEOs tenure and compensation, people process, talent development and building a leadership pipeline, to make banks resilient and future-proof. 

Transformational Leadership in Banking is both well-timed and edifying. With admirable standpoints on the issues of authority, management and HR in a digital environment, the book is a clear blueprint for makeover and restructuring. The book is, mostly, meant for public sector banks, and will be of immense value to policymakers, regulators, board members, CEOs, researchers and to all those who are  in  the leadership roles and the public on the whole. 

Dr Khandelwal’s book makes an overriding case for crucial and cohesive reforms in India’s banking sector. It offers timely solutions by focusing on several issues. A must-read for anyone interested in the well-being of Indian banking.

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Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of No Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.

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Categories
Review

Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World

Book review by Bhaskar Parichha

Title: Raising a Humanist, Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World

Authors: Manisha Pathak-Shelat & Kiran Vinod Bhatia

Publisher: SAGE Publications India/SELECT, 2021

Unusual times warrant unusual responsibility. And, when the responsibility is manifest in parenting, it becomes even more important. Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia is, as the title suggests, meant for the troubled times in which we live. 

On the face, this book is not a typical work on parenting, rather it goes far beyond the remit. Written by   two media professionals, it is a sort of prescription   for modern day parents. 

Says the blurb: “The world is immensely divided and broken. We have lost the art of having conversations with those who are different from us. While we cannot change the world, we can take small remedial steps starting with our homes and communities.” 

Manisha Pathak-Shelat is a Professor at Centre for Development Management and Communication, MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India) and Kiran Vinod Bhatia is a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Coming as it is from two media professionals, the book results from their engagement with parents, teachers and the youth. Being communication scholars, the authors mull over their work, contributing meaningfully and substantially   towards a better world. And, they have succeeded in this effort to a large extent. 

Using critical questions, rational tips and exciting anecdotes, they touch upon the abysmal number of discordant issues of our society and provide fascinating ways to use art, technology and media. The idea is to provide the progenies with a nurturing community. The conversation is appealing and enriching because the writers have a vast experience in the area.

With a Foreword by Lina Ashar, Educationist and Entrepreneur, the book has in all nine chapters and the approach of the subject is avant-garde. It provides a much-needed investigation of how adults can guide children to become kind, liberal and critically thoughtful humans in an ever-changing technological world.

The authors write in the preface: “Critical thinking, empathy and the readiness to engage with different viewpoints have to be a gradual and lifelong process — beginning with ourselves, including our children  and extending it to our larger social circles.” 

That the authors   have taken up a subject as vast as ‘parenting’ is itself challenging. How to raise a child in this polarized and conflicted world is every conscious parent’s concern and the book offers the solution with insight and wisdom. It is multidisciplinary in its sweep and yet not wandering off from the root issue. The mainstay of the book is its account of everyday experiences.

Raising a Humanist results from over three years and interactions with more than 120 parents. It aims to help parents deflate stereotypes, prejudices, mental conditioning about gender, caste, religion and class. 

That politically complex and technologically upsetting times warrant responsible parenthood needs no reiteration. If children from a young age are conditioned into stereotypical and biased ways of thinking, parents are largely to blame. The book not only raises the right questions but also offers solutions by providing a deeper understanding of popular culture and the role of the media in gender, religious, caste and class portrayals. This scholarly book tells us how to unlearn and re-learn as parents. 

Raising children in a scrappy world who can walk through life with self-confidence and empathy is challenging. This book solves that challenge. ‘Raising a Humanist’ mainstreams the power of initiating hard conversations and discussions, guided by a strong yet sensitive rationale at its core. The lucid case studies and the real-life examples are educational and motivating. The book not only sketches the social divide but also remediates it by addressing its concerns. The book talks of the nuances of religion and prejudice in the most succinct manner.

 It is a must-read, especially for parents, educators and concerned citizens who are ambitious for a radical vision of the world that will leave our children free from anxiety and misgiving. This book is a refreshing departure from the tiresome ‘how to’ books imposed on caregivers, as you see guilt and fear taking a rightful back seat to more nuanced, critical and creative conversations that generate excitement for how we would like to see the world turn for the better.

For delving deep into some of the most challenging questions of our times in a rigorously and thoughtfully way, it is an essential reading for anyone interested in parenting. Bold and provocative, this influential book is a decent companion in raising a humanist in the child.

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Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of No Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.

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Click here to read the interview of the authors.

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Interview

On Raising a Humanist

Two communication scholars, Dr. Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, from a management institute in Ahmedabad, India got together to write a book, Raising a Humanist; Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World. How relevant is that in the current world where people are crumbling not just under the pandemic but also under the burdens of a changing, turbulent era where nothing seems as it was earlier! The impact on children cannot be undervalued. In a time when masks and social media seem to be the only way to survive, how would we bring up our youngsters to be considerate good human beings? How do parents need to respond to their children’s needs to prepare them for a challenging future? In this exclusive, the two scholars answer questions on how to address issues we face bringing up children. Kiran Vinod Bhatia moved to University of Wisconsin- Madison midway to complete her PhD. They completed the book together and answered these questions to give us a glimpse into their book and their ideas.

How did the idea for this book come about? How difficult was it to coordinate across the ocean and get it out?

The book is one of the outcomes of our several years of collaborative work. So, it was kind of a natural progression from writing purely academic papers- which we have several by now and an academic book- and then wanting to share the insights with a larger audience. My meeting with Manisha Mathews from Sage was a catalyst because she immediately saw the merit in the idea in our first meeting at MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India) and kept pushing us till we delivered the book.

Our collaboration started way back in 2017 in India soon after Kiran joined the FPM (Fellow Programme in Management) at MICA so Kiran moving across the ocean hasn’t made a huge difference in our capacity to work together. Technology of course helps but we do miss the face-to-face conversations over tea or lunch.

You have spoken extensively of the role of family, school and media in child rearing. Can you reflect briefly on these three issues? Especially media?

These three, family, school and media surround a child constantly and there are many informal, sub-conscious lessons learnt ever day. We still look at media such as cartoon shows, mainstream movies, lyrics of the pop songs, and mythological stories as benign entertainment but they heavily influence the discourse on class, gender, caste, religion and so on. They make systemic discrimination acceptable. Of course, they also have the power to bring positive change in the hands of sensitive and thoughtful people.

You have spoken of the process of unlearning. Why do you see it as a necessary tool in parenting? How important is openness and transparency in parenting? 

Openness and transparency are the backbones of conscious parenting. Gone are the days when children will mutely accept everything you say. They have a vast number of alternate sources of information, they would want to know the reason, the rationale backing your claims. At times they are much more progressive than you are and you have much to learn from them. Encouraging your children to question things and critically introspect can be very beneficial to parent’s worldview too!

What would happen if we stopped bothering about what others say? You have emphasised that it is not good to bother about other’s opinions — what others will say to be precise. Would you have people disregard and openly rebuff each other’s views?

There is a difference between being genuinely concerned about other people’s feelings, rights, and lives and pandering to their opinion to keep appearances even if you strongly believe in the justice of your action. You must have noticed that in our book we constantly emphasise dialogue, respect, and tact in interpersonal interactions. We encourage critical thinking where you do consider all opinions. We argue that you have a right to stand by your values if they do not harm others. Ultimately, when you recognise discrimination and unjust behaviour you have to be brave to do what feels right to you.

One of the things I have sensed is a hatred between the genders in India. Women have a sense of resentment towards the patriarchal norms imposed on them and men feel that marriage is unnecessary (I have read articles) if women do not role-play. How do you bridge this gap and make parenting work? What would be the impact of such an issue on children?

This is a very complex issue and both parents normally bring their own baggage to marriage and parenting. Open communication, a genuine concern for each other’s well-being, openness to new ideas and to questioning harmful serotypes, and treating marriage and family as a collaborative undertaking and not a role-playing game to serve one’s self-interest are the practices that would keep family dynamics healthy.

Many ‘successful’ women no longer want children in India. Some think marriage as an institution has failed. Do you think it is alright to feel this way?

We are nobody to pass a judgment if someone feels this way. Personally, I have found marriage and motherhood fulfilling but there is no way I can impose this experience on others who do not see them this way.

How are children impacted if parents believe in caste or class and impose it on them? If parents employ domestic help and shout at them, what would be the impact on children?

There could be several different outcomes. Some children would internalise these values unquestioningly and turn into similar insensitive and entitled adults. Some would get exposed to other ways of thinking and behaving and would question their parents. This might result in conflicts, at least initially, until the parents see merit in their children’s questions. Some might just decide to focus on their own practice and behaviour become sensitive, humane adults.

How do we give our children a safe home, even technologically? Is a peaceful life necessary for children to thrive, focus and grow as human beings? Why is tolerance and compassion important in child rearing?

It is too utopian to expect that life will always be peaceful. To be resilient and realistic children do need to be exposed to conflict and risk but not in a way that numbs them into insensitivity or harms them irrevocably. They should be brought up to value peace, harmony, justice, and compassion but with the realisation that the reality out there is grey. If we can help them see the darkness in the world and at the same time feel hopeful enough that in their small ways, they do have the power to shape their own and other lives in a positive way it would be an important contribution.

How important is learning to forgive the perpetrator of an abuse towards yourself in parenting? Is it not right that justice be meted out to the perpetrator? Is tolerance and forgiveness of patriarchal mindset acceptable when it comes to parenting?

As they say, forgive but don’t accept. Keep striving to bring the change. Forgiveness does not mean encouraging the same abusive behaviour again and again.

What is the impact on children of news on rape, lynching, communal violence on TV and social on a young child in the age range of 1 to 10? How do we explain this to the child?

We have published another book- Bhatia, Kiran & Pathak-Shelat, Manisha (2019). Challenging discriminatory practices of religious socialisation among adolescents- Critical media literacy and pedagogies in practice. Springer Nature-Palgrave UK.

In this book we talk about many pedagogic strategies to help young people become media and information literate.

Do you think that exposure to these can affect children?

Yes. Absolutely.

How authoritative does a parent need to be? Are laying out rules not necessary to a child’s disciplined growth?

Rules are necessary but at an appropriate age they can be co-created and with a reason. All adults and children must be then expected to obey them, not just children.

How important is it to communicate with your child to raise a humanist? How do you communicate with your child, given that he has no time after school, friends and social media and your own career and social needs? Especially for adolescents.

Communication is the key to a healthy parent-child relationship. At least keep some no-distraction one-on-one time with each other and these times don’t have to be preachy — have fun together and have unstructured but deep and meaningful conversations; get them interested in your own career, get genuinely interested (not snooping around) in their friends, the games they love, their technology interests; have a practice of doing chores together…earlier all this begins in the family the easier it is. Have family movie nights or cookouts. Seek their opinion on important family matters when they are old enough.

This is an online interview conducted by Mitali Chakravarty.

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Click here to read the review of the book.

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Excerpt

Parenting Children

Title: Raising a Humanist; Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World

Authors: Dr. Manisha Pathak-Shelat & Kiran Vinod Bhatia

Publisher: Sage, 2021

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Chapter 1: What Is Your Child’s World View?

The Big Three: How Family, School and Media Shape Our Children

Family, school and media are the three most important building blocks constituting children’s world view. While families and schools allow children to learn and practise norms and codes of conduct acceptable to the communities and countries in which they live, the media is a channel that connects children’s local environments and the outside world. Children’s perceptions of how power and politics work in the world, how to make sense of realities which they cannot experience first-hand, their mental images of people and places and their perception of their own place in the world are largely influenced by the media.

Let us look at an example. Young girls learn about gender roles dominant in their immediate communities from family members, teachers, friends and peers through routine interactions.

Many families and communities in India, for instance, want their girls to be fair because only fair skin is considered to be beautiful.

Fair becomes synonymous with lovely. In many schools, fair girls often act as female protagonists in theatre activities and other school programmes, such as cultural dance performances and video making. Many young girls are raised on a staple diet of the following aspirations.

Fair is lovely!

• You must try to make your skin look fair.

• If you have a dark skin, you must resort to chemical treatments/facials/and other cosmetic procedures to lighten your skin colour.

• Girls should not play sports because exposure to the sun will darken their skin and make them look ugly.

• Girls who have a dark skin shouldn’t wear certain colours because those colours will make their skin look darker.

• For matrimony, only fair girls are in demand. If your daughter has dark skin, it will be difficult to find a match for her.

As is evident, families and communities instil in children the obsession for fair skin through daily communication and practices.

Gradually, it also translates into discrimination against dark-skinned people, that is, considering them less valuable or beautiful.

This obsession over fair skin is then reinforced through media narratives where famous celebrities endorse beauty products designed to make girls look fair and lovely. The media acts as a bridge between children’s local experiences and the trends and practices dominant in the outside world. It is, however, important to realize that popular culture in the outside world of children and everyday experiences in their immediate surroundings happen simultaneously and constantly feed off each other.

Children are socialized on the basis of an interaction between what they observe and practise at home, in schools and communities and how these patterns of thoughts and actions are normalized and justified through media and popular culture. What is significant in this spiral of socialization is the interdependence of these two worlds.

Media: Constructing Social Realities

The media often acts as a lens through which children witness and participate in the outside world. It performs two critical functions in socializing children. First, it informs and influences the aspirations of children in relation to how they should position themselves in their societies. Second, it legitimizes several social practices and interactions. For instance, young children who have been raised on the staple diet of item numbers often sing, dance and appreciate these songs in their routines. We observe that many child contestants on children’s talent shows in India such as ‘Dance India Dance’, ‘India’s Got Talent’ and others are encouraged to perform seductively on item number songs to become more popular and get more votes. Repeated and continuous exposure to such TV content normalizes the act of sexualizing children’s bodies and encourages children to look at themselves using the same lens. They may also develop the fear that if they do not do this, the attention and love they are receiving will be withdrawn.

It is important to note that the role of the media is not limited to just representing the society as it is. It not only selects trending issues of popular interest but also encourages individuals to understand these issues in specific ways. For instance, for years, item number songs in Bollywood movies were not criticized for sexualizing and objectifying female bodies in harmful ways.

Also, the portrayals of protagonists or female leads in Bollywood movies as fair and thin reinforce the stereotype that a girl must be fair and thin to be successful in life. In many movies, their role and character are ornamental; that is, they provide diversion and comic-relief through extremely sexualized songs and dances. Media portrayals thus compel us to think of beauty among women in a limited sense—fair, thin, unquestioning and yielding, and to believe that their role in the society is limited to ‘serving the men’.

Media often represents a selected part of reality and what they want to show. For instance, during a religious conflict, voices that are strident, violent and radical always draw the maximum attention from the media, thus skewing our perception of a community. In each religious community, there are fringe voices and there are people who are working hard to initiate interfaith dialogue and to establish peace between different communal factions. These voices are never heard on prime-time news channels because voicing of moderate opinions seldom boosts their TRPs*. On the contrary, sensationalizing issues help news channels sustain and/or increase their viewership and revenue earned from advertisements, sponsorships, partnerships and other forms of economic and political alliances. When children and adults consume media stories that sensationalize differences between religious communities, individuals start believing that their religion will ultimately decide their fate in the world. Constant exposure to and consumption of such biased media stories can influence children’s everyday interactions with those from different religious communities.

When all that children can see and hear in their families, schools and media is discrimination and stereotyping, how will they find the resources to imagine a different reality?

Of course, the media has a great potential to present new possibilities and to enable individuals to reimagine ways of being in the world, but mainstream media companies are more driven by revenue generation than by democratic morals and values. If they make their audience uncomfortable, they risk losing their viewership and so they prefer to align their coverage with the dominant thoughts, practices and values in the society. When children consume media uncritically, they reproduce in their routines the aspirations and lifestyle choices projected by the media. This is how the media socializes children to behave within religious, gender, class and caste norms that benefit powerful groups in the society.

*Target Rating Points

About the Book

The world is immensely divided and broken. We have lost the art of having conversations with those who are different from us. While we cannot change the world, we can take small remedial steps starting with our homes and communities.

The authors—communication scholars—with a vast experience of working with parents, teachers and youth engage you in a conversation that is bound to leave a lasting impression on you, your children, and our world. Using critical questions, pragmatic tips and interesting anecdotes, they touch upon the deep divisive issues of our society and provide fascinating ways to use art, technology and media to provide our children with a nurturing community.

Bold and provocative at times, this empowering book is your companion in raising a humanist.

About the Authors

Dr. Manisha Pathak-Shelat is a Professor, Communication & Digital Platforms and Strategies, and Chair, Centre for Development Management and Communication, MICA, Ahmedabad. A widely published scholar, Manisha has taught and worked as a media consultant, communication trainer, and researcher in India, Thailand, and U.S.A. Manisha believes in scholarship that is socially engaged and accessible for making meaningful contribution towards a better world.

Kiran Vinod Bhatia is a doctoral candidate at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bhatia has published widely in journals of international repute and has co-authored a book on media education and critical literacy. Bhatia believes that critical education and thinking have the potential to change the ways in which we engage with others in our societies.

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