N Rajashekaran has been in the banking profession for 35 years, ever since completing his engineering followed by an MBA. His profession has taken him places, most recently landing him in Bangladesh as the Country Corporate Officer of Citibank NA. He had a brief encounter with golf when he was posted in Calcutta over 30 years ago, but has never really been a regular golfer. It is only after coming to Dhaka a year ago that he and his wife, Mrs Rajashekaran, started falling in love with the game. They are the golf couple of this edition of TheGolfHouse.
When and how did you start playing golf?
N Rajashekaran: I played golf for the first time over 30 year ago in Calcutta, and then I did not pursue the sport. After that I might have gone to golf course only a couple of times with friends or when I went overseas. However, after being posted to Dhaka a year ago, I took up the game seriously and now I’m trying to play regularly.
Mrs. Rajashekaran: I’ve just started. I never played golf before. I never had the time and scope to play golf. But now that the kids have grown up, and with the time and facilities available, I thought I could try and learn the game.
Why do you play golf and not other sports?
Mrs. Rajashekaran: At this point in time , I don’t think other active sports will be feasible for me to take up. But golf is a game which can be played at any stage. I’m happy to be playing golf.
N Rajashekaran: Actually, tennis is my original game. I used to play tennis during my college days and I still play tennis. But I always thought about golf as a very interesting and challenging game. It requires a lot of concentration and focus. It’s a very mental game; every shot is different and every approach is different. Now in Dhaka , we found this lovely club and I am enjoying it.
What is your impression of golf in Bangladesh?
N Rajashekaran: It looks like many people enjoy it. . I see ladies and gentlemen from Bangladesh , children and expatriates all playing, it seems to be a game which is picking up. I have read that local pros are starting to do better and there is a lot of interest that they do well overseas and at home.
Mrs. Rajashekaran: I have not been here for too long and not met too many golfers as such. But I think the game is gaining momentum. Those I have met are very passionate about it. I have friends here who play and they are very passionate about it.
What is your impression of the golf course here?
N Rajashekaran: I think KGC is very challenging. When I speak to friends who play here ,they say it is tough to navigate. I also spoke to some of the pros, and they told me it’s a challenging course. I believe if I learn here , I should be able to play anywhere else !
The game is growing rapidly in India. What is your take on India’s progress in golf?
N Rajashekaran: Golf was still a very exclusive game in India even up to 30 years ago. Initially it was mostly military and government officers who used to play. Then corporate people picked up the game. And thanks to globalisation and new trends , people got more and more interested. One of our friend’s daughter is a fantastic golfer, which helped her get into one of the best colleges in US. The new generation is picking up the game with a great deal of interest.
Which is your favourite golf course and why?
N Rajashekaran: For me it is the Tollygunge Golf Course. We were in Calcutta from 1987 to 1993, and we used to frequent Tollygunge Club often. . It is one of the oldest and most beautiful clubs in the subcontinent. I have had the opportunity to see some courses around the world , but Tollygunge has special memories.
Who are your favourite golfers?
N Rajashekaran: I’m a little retro on this subject. I tend to go back to history. I think Ben Hogan, the original guru of golf is my favourite. There are some video clips available of him, and his swings were as good, if not better than, any of the golfers of today. Among the more modern players , Greg Norman. He had a personality which I liked.
What is your golfing nightmare?
N Rajashekaran: The ball going into the water is a recurring nightmare for me. Whenever I go and play I am constantly reminded that my shot might go awry and fall into the water !
What is your most memorable experience on the golf course?
N Rajashekaran: There was one experience when we played in Simla. It was a casual game. But it so happened that I hit a par and I preserved the ball. It is my most memorable experience in golf so far – working hard for many more !
Mrs. Rajashekaran: I’m still to have any such memorable experience, but I’m looking forward to it.
How about the hospitality of Bangladesh?
N Rajashekaran: We have received a very warm welcome from the moment we landed in Bangladesh. People are very warm and friendly and it’s a pleasure to interact with people here. We’ve had a wonderful year and we look forward to the rest of our stay.
Mrs Rajashekaran: Having been to many countries and then coming to Bangladesh, I feel that Bangladeshis are one of the most hospitable and warm people that I have come across; that holds as much for drivers and maids apart from corporate executives CEOs and business people of this country.
Citibank is one of the major international banks. Tell us a bit about the operations of this bank.
N Rajashekaran: Citibank NA is one of the leading banks in the world with a history of over 200 years. We are present in 98 countries. We have been supporting corporates , businesses, individuals financial institutions and governments over these years to achieve their objectives.We are the best connected bank from the point of view N Rajashekaran: Citibank NA is one of the leading banks in the world with a history of over 200 years. We are present in 98 countries. We have been supporting corporates , businesses, individuals financial institutions and governments over these years to achieve their objectives.We are the best connected bank from the point of view of global connectivity.We are proud that we operate in a responsible way, working closely with communities. From a sporting point of view, we encourage our staff to be fit and have specific programs to encourage this.
Tell us about the operations and background of the bank in Bangladesh.
N Rajashekaran: Citibank NA has been in Bangladesh for over thirty years. We have worked with companies, financial institutions, the MFI sector, government and government agencies to help Bangladesh’s – growth and sustainable development – we are very proud to be part of “ Shonar Bangla”. We have pioneered digital solutions in Bangladesh’s finance ecosystem , and have a track record of many firsts in terms of global and local capital raising. We work closely with the community here – we just concluded successfully the 13th annual Citi Microentrepreneur Awards where we recognize micro entrepreneurs who set an an example by their creativity and strong execution regardless of many constraints.
Your bank organised tournaments at the KGC before. Is there any chance of organising such events in near future?
N Rajashekaran: We do participate in sporting events around the world. It depends on our business model and what makes sense to our business idea in a country at that time. So the answer is it depends on the situation and the opportunity.
Tell us about yourself and your banking background.
N Rajashekaran: I was born and brought up in Delhi. I was schooled there. I am mechanical engineer from the Delhi College of engineering and have an MBA from the Indian institute of management,Bangalore. Right after my graduation in 1985, I started my career in banking. This is my 34th year in banking. I have lived and worked around the world – from Tokyo to Seoul, India, Bangkok and Shanghai before coming here. It has been a great journey rich with memorable experiences.
What is the message you’ve learnt from life that you would like to relay to youngsters?
N Rajashekaran: Rather than giving them a message, I think we have a lot to learn from the modern generation. They look at things differently and have different career options. They are doing a great job. However, if I have to say something – I would say, enjoy yourself, put your heart and soul into following and achieving your dream. Have great role models and try to become a role model yourself.