#ELLEVoices: Pranjul Bhandari On How She Is #ImaginingTheWorldToBe
For ELLE India’s 24th Anniversary Issue, we decided to feature select women (and some men) who have stood out as strong role models in their fields. We were keen on knowing their thoughts on how they perceive the future to be, how they see their individual industries evolving, how they intend to meet the challenges and what their hope for the world is.
An impressive career graph currently shows Pranjul Bhandari as the Chief India Economist at HSBC India. A Harvard and Cambridge alumnus, she has also worked at India’s Ministry of Finance. She discusses the country’s future with us, the need to join hands globally, and the resurgence of communities.
ELLE: What have been some of your self-revelations and introspections in the recent months?
Pranjul Bhandari: The value of family-time has struck a chord with all of us, and we’ve realised what a stable core and a safe space it offers. I’m also amazed at how well human resilience and adaptability has come to the fore. At a societal level, schools, consumers and corporates have adapted by going digital. On the other hand, inequality is on the rise globally, and has implications for our collective future. Capital markets are doing well, but the gains aren’t trickling down. Unexpected events have made economic growth increasingly volatile, over the last decade.
ELLE: What has the crisis shown us as a community?
PB: It’s shown us how much we can achieve if we put our minds to it. We have rediscovered the power inherent in communities, whether they were citizen groups, NGOs, informal settlements or residential societies. Each group has risen to the occasion. In Raghuram Rajan’s latest book, The Third Pillar, he underlines ‘Communities’ as one of the pillars that hold up a country (along with Markets and the State).
ELLE: What do you see as challenges in your field?
PB: The first challenge is the health of our banks; their debt levels have been rising. So how to strengthen our banking system, is a priority. Second is the increasing volatility in financial markets; growth shocks are becoming more frequent. New and adventurous policies are being employed globally, e.g., central banks are infusing unprecedented liquidity. We don’t know the flip side of many of these yet, and that’s a problem.
ELLE: How do you suggest we tackle these problems?
PB: We must ‘strengthen the domestic house’ by pushing the pedal on economic reforms in land, labour and ease of doing business. We need an environment of policy certainty, where the rules are clear for everyone. This will help kickstart the investment cycle. To be fair, some key policies are in place, but more needs to be done.
ELLE: From working with the former RBI Governor and IMF Chief Raghuram Rajan to being the Chief India Economist at HSBC – how would you describe the change in the Indian financial scenario?
PB: Several positive developments have happened in India lately; we’re riding the digital wave, tax reforms such as GST have been enacted, the number of electronics manufacturers has increased, and so on. We need to extend incentive schemes to new sectors, roll back policies that hurt and accelerate those that help.
ELLE: How are you #ImaginingTheWorldToBe post COVID-19?
PB: I’m hoping to see more global co-operation, since it is amply clear that ‘we are all in this together’. We need to bring our best game to the table and work together for climate change, trade, financial stability, and health. So when we look back 20 years from now, we can feel a sense of satisfaction at the more prosperous and resilient world we have created.