President and COO, SBI Foundation: Sharing his views on the youth and on running marathons

SBI Foundation undertakes #CorporateSocialResponsibility (#CSR) activities of The State Bank of India and its group companies. Across India, SBI Foundation has been working with more than 30 partners to create impact at the grassroots – in the fields of #Education, Healthcare and Sanitation, #Women #Empowerment and Care for Senior Citizens, Livelihood, Sustainability and Environment, among others. Its flagship program, SBI Youth For India, is a 13-month rural development fellowship that promotes social entrepreneurship and awareness of among the youth of India.

Mr. Nixon Joseph, a seasoned banking professional, is the President and Chief Operating Officer of SBI Foundation. As coordinator of SBI Youth for India fellowship, Mr. Joseph has been mentoring around 100 youths every year. EduMiles’ co-founders, Teesta Mukherjee and Bahniman Rynjah, had an engaging conversion with Mr. Joseph during his visit to #Guwahati on 29th January, 2020.

Sir, could you please tell us about your journey across North East India?

#NorthEast #India holds a very special place in my heart. I started my career as a Probationary Officer of #StateBankofIndia (#SBI) in the North East Circle of SBI. My first posting after probation was in Demagiri, a village an overnight journey from Lunglei in #Mizoram, bordering Bangladesh. This was in 1987 and was the first time that I was away from home. Contrasting this to the luxury of the pampered upbringing that I had back home in Kerala, I was now to manage my own chores – cooking and doing laundry among others! I did not speak the language as well – mind you, this was the pre-internet era and Google had not even existed. Being in a remote village, we were cut-off from the rest of the world. To put things into perspective, we used to receive a month’s worth of newspapers together in one day of the month. I was placed out of my comfort zone – and how!

I took upon this challenge and tried to imbibe it. I learnt #Mizo within three months, I started enjoying Mizo food (whatever was cooked) and I followed their customs and rituals. Soon, I was no longer an outsider, but one among the local populace. This helped me earn their trust and goodwill, which, in turn, helped me engage better with my colleagues at work as well.

I have also worked as Regional Manager of SBI in the #GaroHills in #Meghalaya, at a time when I saw two of my colleagues being kidnapped. But, I loved my work and enjoyed interacting with my fellow office-mates and neighbours and learnt a lot from them. Looking back, perhaps, this ability to adapt to different scenarios and develop rapport with multiple stakeholders have helped me do my best in whatever assignment I have held.

I have fond recollections of North East India - the people, the place and the talent available here. We, unfortunately, have had limited access and exposure to technology and development, compared to our peers in other parts of India. However, this should not be an excuse to not have an ambitious outlook towards life and refrain from blaming circumstances for personal failures. You have the glorious example of Mary Kom right next door to emulate!

You have mentioned about the availability of #talent here. What do you reckon are traits that the youth of the region should imbibe?

Across my travels in the villages in the North East, I have been fascinated by the ability of people to be content with what they have or what they are earning. Life is easy-paced. In this age of cut-throat #competition, I wish more Indians and especially city dwellers had this positive attitude towards life!

However, if we were to examine this critically, I feel that this outlook has resulted in us not being go-getters or overtly ambitious. Perhaps, this has contributed towards the region’s limited #industrial and #entrepreneurial #development? Could this, in turn, have led to the vicious cycle of the #youth here being less-confident than their peers?

That being said, I see the seeds of positive changes taking place. The governments in #Assam, #Meghalaya and now, #ArunachalPradesh have organised #Entrepreneurship summits and platforms to empower the young and old demographics. We still have a long way to go, though - but interactions with renowned political leaders of the region, successful sportspersons and individuals and inculcating in ourselves, a habit of #reading, with a never-give-up attitude should stand the young generation in good stead as they look into the future.

Speaking of sportspersons, you are a seasoned marathon runner. How did this come about and how has running changed your life?

I have always asked myself the question – “How can I #inspire people around me?” This question has hounded me even when I was doing fairly well as a #banking #professional. I was on the lookout for doing something which enable me to put my stamp on #society.