Meet the SHEROES - Shinjini Kumar
Shinjini Kumar, CEO at Paytm Payments Bank talks to SHEROES about what inspires her, what is it to work at Paytm after over 20 years of working with companies like RBI, Bank of America and PwC. She tells us about her career in early years, motherhood and more. Read on:
Tell us more about yourself.
Starting from my grandmother’s little village in North Bihar and graduating in English Literature from Patna Women’s College, I spent a good part of my growing up years in Bihar/Jharkhand. My father worked in Coal India in Dhanbad and my mother was a school principal. We had simple lives, surrounded by plentiful nature and affectionate people but like most Biharis, we felt the terrible yearning to get out of there. It was my dream to become a journalist and I signed up at Times Centre for Media Studies in Delhi. That brief stint was super fun, but when I got selected for RBI through what was considered a difficult competitive exam, everyone around made me feel like I had done something big. Of course, I had little idea of the central bank, not having ever studied economics or met any bankers at all, but because they were sending me to Bangalore. I opened my first bank account the day I joined the RBI in Bangalore, so I do know something about the cash economy! As ironic as life is, I met my life partner soon after and came back to Delhi once we got married. This was an exciting phase with new learning, new friends, independence, romance and motherhood. I had the opportunity to work at the FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) desk of RBI, New Delhi with an incredible boss whose mandate was to make it simple and yet understand the wider import of the job. Engaging with the whole world from that little vantage point also made me realize that I needed more than what my education had prepared me for and I took a two year break to study Public Policy at University of Texas at Austin. It was phenomenal learning and an awesome family experience as my husband was doing PhD and our little son started school there. We had our second child soon after finishing my course. This is when I learnt all that I know about managing time; balancing between a program (that I completed with a perfect GPA), part time research work, home, kid(s) and tons of friends from all over the world. We met the most wonderful people on campus, and many continue to be friends. Once I was back, it was RBI for a few years and then Bank of America, followed by 5 memorable years at PwC. Most of this phase of life has been in Mumbai, which is an incredible city that has given us opportunities and terrific friends.
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After companies like RBI, PwC & Bank of America, what made you join a growing company like Paytm?
While I have tremendous respect for all three organizations and owe them a lot, I have also realized over time that there are inherent differences between large, settled organizations and small, new organizations. In my consulting career, I had the opportunity to work with different types of companies and promoters and found it fascinating to observe these differences. Since I was a central banker for years, I overdosed on polite people who would always say good things, at least to my face! I learnt to discount that, but always wondered what it would be like to be on my own with no RBI ‘halo'. So, in my journey since then, I have constantly looked to be challenged and tried to build relationships based on greater mutual respect. At Paytm, it was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something exciting for an ecosystem that I felt I understood intuitively, having traveled this journey from my little village to here. This is also truly special because Paytm has been such a role model in its space. As I met Vijay I also figured that we shared the goal of taking financial services to everyone without a sense of entitlement or greed. The rest became irrelevant.
Who are the leaders inspiring you and why?
At a macro level, I have admired leaders like Gandhi or FDR for leading with vision and overcoming large challenges. I also respect anyone who brings creativity to bear upon their work and change the way humanity lives and works. That is also a wide set of people with famous ones like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Jack Ma or the not-so-famous ones that live amongst us, creating deep impact on their communities, solving real problems of health, hygiene, education or environmental sustainability. I am fortunate to know people like that personally and learn from them.
What keeps you going every day?
Just about everything. the calm of the morning, the bustle before leaving the house and the anticipation of greeting my team or meeting new people and working together to solve small or big challenges. And then coming home to my lovely family...
Tell us a fun fact that nobody knows about you.
That is a hard one. If you know me, you possibly know everything about me. I like to write short stories and if I ever have time, will write more.
What is the best about working at Paytm?
The opportunity to work with younger, smarter people. Raising my two boys who are now twenty and fifteen, I have developed great respect for this generation that has the advantage of being intuitive with technology, question things we took for granted and make choices with less fear than we thought possible. I feel good if I can complement that energy and agility with my experiences across a wide spectrum of society that they are not necessarily familiar with or understand. Of course, the bigger mission of creating a bank with an everyday connect with every Indian is huge!
What are you doing when not at work?
I read, although not as much as I would like to. When my family can make some time for me, it’s great to be with them! They are usually busier than me. I like to go for walks in public parks or gardens. We have many friends and there is usually some social engagement or performance to catch up on. I don’t do this as much as I would like to, but I am the first reader for my husband’s poems and that is precious.
A message to inspire SHEROES out there.
Do not let the ordinary consume you. Excellence is its own reward and needs no recognition.