Tanushree Bagrodia, CFO & VP-IT, NRB Bearings Ltd, is an under training classical singer, but in her forte-finance, she has invariably hit the right notes.
She was just 11 years old when she forgot her hall ticket for the entrance exam to a boarding school at home in Narsingarh. Home was a good six-hour drive from Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) where she was. But that was no reason for her to worry. She stood confident and grounded and managed to convince the authorities to allow her to write the exam, as her father quietly watched the proceedings from the other end.
Today that young girl is a well-known leader in the world of finance, and an inspiration for many finance professionals. Tanushree Bagrodia, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President-Information Technology, NRB Bearings Ltd, a leading Indian friction solutions provider for the global mobility industry, continues to stand with the same trademark confidence and humility. She has won the prestigious CFO100 award, and is beaming with a smile of pure happiness, as we catch up with her for a short conversation on her breathtaking journey.
Right from an early age, Tanushree says, resourcefulness was taught to her and her two sisters. She recounts the “admit ticket incident” saying, “I was expected to explain to the authorities that I truly was who I was claiming to be; that I was my father’s daughter who was with me at the time and whose identity could be verified and he would vouch that I was indeed his daughter; and finally that I would post the ticket as soon as I got to Narsingarh the next day. In short, I had to use the facts to be able to sit for the entrance exam.” Her honest explanation compelled the authorities to let her appear for the entrance exam.
First finance job-> HypoveriensBank, 2004
Aha moment->MBA from INSEAD
Passion beyond Numbers->Spending time with youth and children
A lesser known fact->She is an under training singer
Dream job->Photo Journalist
Born into a typical Marwari family in Bengaluru in 1978, financial management was a part of her upbringing. She was always encouraged to save her ‘pocket money’ in her childhood, the period which she mostly spent in Madhya Pradesh after having been in Bengaluru for her first three years. Later, she moved to Malaysia, and then studied in Singapore, as her father’s work led the family’s relocations. She came back to India in the 1990s and stayed in Delhi for a short time before finally moving to Mumbai. It was this city that sowed the seeds of her career with her graduating as computer engineering from Vivekanand Education Society's Institute Of Technology.
Tanushree's family is highly educated. Her father is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur and an MBA holder from University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business. While her mother is BA and LLB graduate, she is also a trained musician under the legendary Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. “I am privileged to have been born in a Marwari family that gives tremendous importance to education of boys and girls alike. This is not just true about my parents but both my grandfathers as well,” she says adding that her maternal grandfather also introduced her to international sports – tennis, billiards, and soccer during her childhood.
She breezed through her engineering, getting excellent grades but graduated in 2001 just when the dotcom bubble had burst. With her two big on campus offers being postponed indefinitely, she decided to continue her learning even if it was at a small startup. But at this point of time, Tanushree knew that this was not where she wanted to be forever. “I realized soon that it was not my calling. I wanted to do finance because numbers excite me. So I decided to do MBA,” she says.
Tanushree challenged herself further and pursued top premier schools abroad for admission. In 2003, she got her biggest break, getting selected to the business school of her choice, INSEAD (France), and was the youngest member in her batch. “That was the one life changing event because when I went to INSEAD, the average age was about six years older than me. If I could stand shoulder to shoulder with them in class I knew I could work successfully with them. It meant I have the capability to achieve my dreams,” she says with her eyes luminous with excitement. Tanushree takes further pride in the fact that she did make it to the premier institute on a part scholarship and recovered her own investment in two years.
Tanushree completed both her engineering as well as her MBA from the institutions of her choice. After graduating from INSEAD in 2003, Tanushree began working with Hypovereinsbank(HVB). She established the Asian (covering India, Japan, Taiwan and Australia) convertible bond franchise for the bank. Soon she was working on the bank’s first ever Taiwanese Convertible Bond issue and pricing a new convertible bond issuance by a Swiss medical fund. Tanushree calls it her biggest learning experience as both deals were launched on the same day. From London she had to work with the legal and coverage teams, across time differences and cultures, in Germany, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. ”Both deals were a first of their kinds and critical to the organization. Nothing could go wrong and the timelines on both deals were tight. Careful planning was needed” . Talking about what she learnt from both the transaction she says, “With half a brain on one's shoulders and enough humility to say that one doesn't know everything and needs help, nothing is impossible. That has been the motto of my life. Ultimately hard work is always rewarded. ”
"With half a brain on one’s shoulders and having enough of humility saying that one doesn’t know everything and needs help, nothing is impossible. That has been the motto of my life"
Tanushree stayed in London till 2010, working with different organizations. In 2006, she first switched to Merrill Lynch International, before moving to KBC Financial Products in 2007 as director. She launched and established the Indian convertible bond franchise for KBC Financial Products in cooperation with Kotak Mahindra Capital Company.
Times were challenging in 2007, when the global economic crisis shook the world and hit KBC Financial Products too. But she weathered the storm crediting her boss Darren Carter, who was the chief executive officer of the KBC Financial Products during this period. “I think Darren has been a great mentor to me, teaching me how to navigate toughest of situations and not taking short term decisions,” she says.
Tanushree moved back home in 2010, and worked with IDFC Capital as Director till 2013. “I am very passionate about the Indian debt markets. I strongly believe that for sustained and stable growth we need a thriving debt capital markets in the country in addition to the equity markets. The reason I moved back (to India) was because the product that we were working on was to develop the debt markets in India. I was very excited. But soon I realized the regulatory environment was very tough and we would not get anywhere with it. So I had to take a call of moving back or doing something else. Not a quitter, I decided to become a sector banker and stay back. IDFC is a great organization and they gave me the opportunity to start covering the auto/auto component sector.” she says.
Three years later, she moved to NRB Bearings as its CFO & VP-IT, which she believes, is one of the few family-run businesses in India being run professionally. NRB Bearings is one of the largest organized bearings players in India, and engineers and manufactures bearings for leading domestic and global mobility brands from HeroMoto to Honda to Daimler to Mahindra. 2015-16 fiscal amid sluggish automobile industry and external volatility has been challenging. Tanushree explains this entire picture saying, “FY16 has been a tough year for the organisation as almost 85per cent of our revenues comes from the domestic mobility segment. While the domestic two-wheeler industry has been flat and passenger car segment has seen some growth, the farm equipment industry has actually seen double digit negative growth. In addition, the global markets have also seen challenges whether it is in the form of Latin American de-growth or the VolksWagen issue in Europe. These events and the Euro volatility have impacted exports too.” However, she adds that the NRB Bearings’ model is to de-risk the business across mobility segments and geographies, and hence the organization has maintained its top line, not withstanding the tough environment.
Tanushree ardently supports the vision of making NRB Bearings a world leader in friction management. “Under the very able and foresighted leadership of Mrs. Harshbeena Zaveri, NRB has achieved recognition for our engineering and manufacturing capabilities. She is a visionary who thought set-up an engineering center 16 years ago and has been paving the way for deeper research in sustainable development and driverless vehicles for many years now. Today 90 per cent of vehicles on Indian roads have at least one NRB product. Our vision to become the world leader in friction management, with presence in every vehicle of every type in the world,” she says.
Holiday Destinations->Sicily and Jaipur
Book->To Kill a Mockingbird
Hobbies->Photography and Reading
Movies->The Constant Gardener
Sensitive and thoughtful, she adds that she draws inspiration from all those around her as she feels there is so much to learn from each person’s journey. “A young colleague, who being the eldest of all siblings took the responsibility of earning for her family at the age of 19, when her father had a paralytic attack, is a reminder that there is opportunity in adversity,” she cites an instance. Rahul Dravid, for her, is a constant reminder in being graceful and determined.
Tanushree is currently an under training classical singer, but when it comes comes to her forte and passion-finance, she has invariably hit the right notes with great finesse. She has made a huge mark in the world of finance and her journey as a remarkable leader is surely a quintessential example for others to follow.