Aditya Puri allows himself a chuckle. Euromoney has just asked the retiring founder and leader of HDFC Bank, one of India’s great financial success stories, about an odd contradiction: how he has just articulated a nuanced and progressive view of technology, yet is famous for never using a mobile phone.
“I know how to use a phone when I need to,” he says. “I know how to do a Zoom call, like we’re doing now. But I speak to you, you don’t speak to me, so most of the time when we’re talking on the phone it’s on my objective. I don’t appreciate a call when I’ve just had my bath, finished my exercise, put on my music and poured my drink of Scotch.”
He tells the story for humour, but there’s a revealing point here. One of the secrets of Puri’s success has been an eye for the big picture, without any need to be lost in the clutter, the insignificant details.
It is possible to harness technology to change your entire bank and the industry in which it operates without being in thrall to an individual gadget.
“A long time back I went to a large technology conference,” he says, with two tech leaders who he doesn’t name. When asked what he thought, he told them: “You fellows have overestimated yourselves a bit. Technology is an enabler, it can help me do things better, it can help me to access a wider market. But technology cannot change the world.”
Technology in itself won’t make a great bank is his point; there’s still got to be a great bank to make use of the technology. “There has to be an integral raw material.”
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