Published by Jaico Publishing House, HDFC Bank 2.0 – From Dawn to Digital by Tamal Bandyopadhyay may thematically center around the story of HDFC Bank, but it weaves together a larger tale….of how a company can disrupt itself to emerge more agile for the future. From a startup in 1994 to a colossal banking institute just two decades later, the HDFC Bank’s story is an example of how massive changes can actually integrate seamlessly within existing companies.
Tamal Bandhopadhyay, a respected writer and columnist on finance, writes not only about a bank, but about a story of transformation. Rather, a story of digital transformation and what it entails. It answers the question- how can a company disrupt itself rather than be disrupted?
A lot happens in transformation. This book, expectedly outlines the specifics of the transformation of HDFC Bank. Through collaboration and coordination between its different teams and wings, the bank has succeeded in deploying technological solutions to its large database. Transformation also requires a strategy- not merely products. So, while HDFC did introduce many digital products, there was also a strong strategy behind these and that is what the book illustrates. It deployed a team that looked specifically at innovations. There had to be a lot of backend work for a seemingly seamless online process (for example, their famous 10-second loan process). It also harnessed new technology such as AI for multiple purposes. In short, the management took a holistic view of all the elements required for the transformation, and ensured that these are implemented in the best manner.
It looked at the new fin-tech start-ups and leveraged their own traditional banking strength to offer a completely different experience to customers. The book also covers the failures and challenges in this process. For example, the arena of smart watch banking was something that really did not take off. However, this did not discourage the leadership. For all you know, it might just go on to become the next big thing!
Leadership that drives transformation
As we read the story of transformation, we also enter another territory- leadership. What should a leader who leads transformation be like? Besides talking about Aditya Puri, whose photograph also graces the cover, the book covers the contribution of many other members of the HDFC Bank Team who have strived for making the transformative process a reality.
The section devoted to Aditya Puri brings out his personality, working style and passion that has acted as a driver as well as a catalyst in this transformation. I particularly enjoyed the little anecdotes about him- how post a bypass surgery he realized that Doctors were a great group of potential customers that HDFC could connect with! Or, stories about his enviable work-life balance! (Did you know he leaves office by 5.30?). There are many such fun nuggets here which go on to paint a picture of the personality of Puri and his leadership style.
As HDFC Bank marks its 25th year in 2019, this book comes as a timely reminder of the innovation that this institution has shown. The book is as much a story of Aditya Puri as it is of the transformation. MD Aditya Puri’s trip to California in September 2014 is an event that sparked off many changes at the fundamental level. Through brilliant examples and descriptions, the book brings out another point- how one needs to be on the top of change (in this case, the disruptive technology) and yet have firm roots (in this case a conservative approach to risk). This is a precarious balance, but HDFC has got it right.
Who should read this book
Those in the banking and finance sector (both professionals and students) will be able to connect immediately with many elements of the book. However, at another level this is also a story of how a company disrupted itself to leap into the future rather than be disrupted by changes happening around it. By this extension, this is a story that will interest all business owners and startups.
The essence of the book is actually summed up by Nandan Nilekani in the foreword, when he says, “HDFC Bank has shown that with an agile leadership which has foresight and flawless execution at speed and scale, even a giant bank can take on the nimblest of startups and become a market leader and pioneer. It is an object lesson on how incumbents in many industries can respond to the digital disruption staring at them!”