Shankar Pandit (84), father of the newly appointed CEO of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit has had a very busy on Wednesday. Himself a retired director of a pharma company, he tells Timesofindia.com that his son has made him proud. Pandit senior is aware that his son has to put in great efforts in his new job, but he does not doubt his capabilities.
While the world is talking about Vikram the CEO, his father gives a rare peak into Vikram, the humble middle class Nagpur born lad who has touched dizzying heights in his career. Excerpts:
Congratulations! Your son Vikram has been appointed as CEO of the Citigroup. How do you feel? When did you hear about this news?
Thank you. I am elated. I received a call from Vikram’s wife Swati at 1:15 am (IST) this morning, giving me the good news. Vikram was still at the meeting. After his appointment was confirmed, Vikram gave her the news and she conveyed it to all of us.
Did you get to speak with your son, today?
Oh yes. Vikram called me up as soon as he returned home. I received a call from him in the morning around 8:30 am (IST).
What did he say?
At home we speak in Marathi. He told me in a calm but happy voice that everything had gone well. We do not use words like “thank you” and “sorry” in our conversations. But, my son was definitely very excited. In fact my grandson Rahul could not contain his excitement and he sounded so proud of his father, telling me how thousands of people were listening to his dad speak.
Did you foresee that your son will become world famous, someday?
He was a brilliant boy. In school, he always stood first in his class. He is very astute and focused. I saw him rise. Vikram has stood to my expectations. I am so happy that everyone is sharing my happiness, today. As a family, we are very optimistic by nature.
The media had shown Vikram Pandit in race with the former Pakistani Premier Shaukat Aziz (also an ex Citibank executive), for the top slot. Did you have any doubts that your son would not be able to stand against him?
Shaukat Aziz is a capable man. But, I feel, he was not meant for this particular job. Apparently, the Board of Directors who finally appointed Vikram also thought so.
Were you sure about his appointment for the top job?
In my heart, I had a great hope. And, Vikram too felt the same way. But, he is a very humble man. After his name came up for the post, we never seriously discussed it between us. If at all, it was just a very casual discussion. In fact, I would advise him not to feel disheartened, if not selected for the top job. I told him he was only 50 years old and had enough time ahead of him to prove his worth.
Will you be travelling to meet your son and his family any time soon?
Vikram may be coming to India with his family on December 23 and return to US in the first week of January. The last time he came to India was in February this year. I spend nine months of the year in US. After Vikram’s mother’s demise in the US, over a year ago, they do not want me to live all by myself in Mumbai. But I like it here. In fact, my son and his family too love being in India. They enjoy the atmosphere here.
Please tell us about Vikram Pandit as a person.
As I told you, he is a very simple person at heart. He likes reading and reads on all sorts of topics; he even reads up a cookery book! He is a very good photographer and enjoys being with family. He derives pleasures from simple things in life, not playing golf etc.
We are from Nagpur and my extended family still lives there. I keep travelling between Mumbai and US. Besides Vikram, I have a daughter who also lives in the US. Vikram lives in the US with his wife son Rahul (15) and daughter Maya (13). My three brothers also live near my house in (Vashi) new Mumbai so I always have company.
Vikram didn’t start out as a Banker. He is a qualified professional engineer. When and why did he switch to Finance?
My work took me to many places in India and the World. I went to USA, too. Vikram went to the US as a student and joined the Columbia University. He obtained a Masters in electrical engineering. In those days young students preferred to either study medical or engineering. Vikram wanted to do his Phd and that was the time his guide advised him to take up finance, as it was a good field. He followed the advice. That’s how his switch to finance happened. And then, he worked for Morgan Stanley after which he started his own firm named ‘Old Lane’. This firm was later purchased by the Citigroup and Vikram was offered a job by the Bank.
Citigroup has suffered incredible losses, lately. When you think of Vikram’s appointment do you feel apprehensive whether he would be able to pull out the bank from the mess?
I am not apprehensive about his abilities. I am confident he will do a very good job. However, it calls for plenty of efforts on his part.
Do you discuss professional matters at home?
I belong to a different line. He doesn’t consult me on major issues. The only time we spoke about something connected with his work was when Citigroup wanted to buy his firm.