Shikha SharmaHardwork and intelligence, overcome all the hurdles. Published On: Monday, February 09, 2015 Views 17958


 Image credit: indiatoday.intoday.in

About Shikha Sharma

Born on November 19, 1958, Shikha Sharma currently acts as the CEO & Managing Director of Axis Bank which was set up in 1994 and presently is India’s 3rd largest Bank in the private sector in terms of total assets and 4th largest Bank in terms of market capitalization.

Shikha is the eldest Daughter of a brigadier in the ordnance corps of the Indian Army, who was an ammunition expert and also had fought two India-Pakistan wars in the past. She also has two younger brothers who right now are cardiologists.

Being the daughter of an army man, Shikha & family had to travel all over the country every now-&-then, due to which she has attended seven schools before finishing her schooling from Loreto Convent in Delhi. Later, she joined Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) in Delhi to do her BA (Honours) in Economics followed by MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. She also holds a PG diploma in Software Technology from the National Centre for Software Technology in Mumbai.

Post that; Shikha settled down and got married to Sanjaya Sharma, her batch-mate at IIM-A. Her husband is the CEO at Tata Interactive Systems. Together, they have two children, Tilak and Tvisha.

Personally, Shikha prefers to keep a light diet and is also going through a weight-loose program under the supervision of nutritionist and fitness consultant – Suman Agarwal. Some of her most beloved likings include swimming and just like every Indian – movies. Due to time constraints she catches up on swimming every morning whereas movies are left for the weekend.


Shikha has a work experience of more than three decades! Born and raised by an Army officer, discipline and ethics have been instilled in her since day one and these qualities have rightly helped her in climbing the ladders of the much-deserved success, she now has.

Presently, Shikha is the Managing Director & CEO of Axis Bank, and alongside that; she also acts as the Chairperson of Axis Asset Management Company Limited, Axis Bank UK limited, Axis Capital Limited and Axis Private Equity Limited.


Her career began right after completing her graduation from IIM, Ahmadabad! She joined Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India, better known as ICICI, India’s largest financial service provider in the year 1980.

Shikha was a die-hard workaholic and considered ICICI as her second home, may be even her first, and always worked hard towards the development of the organization, considering the growth of the company as hers.

During her initial phases; the best thing that happened to her was that, she got the mentorship of K.V. Kamath – the current chairman and Mark Tucker – the former group CEO of Prudential Plc. and now CEO of AIA Group Ltd.

Soon the bank gained the license to carry out the business of insurance, becoming the first private sector bank to get such a privilege and Shikha was chosen to head the life insurance division of the group.

Being the intelligent one; using her talents and creativity Shikha was smoothly able to preserve the lead from day one, because of which the organization has till date remained the largest private sector life insurance company in India.

Other than that; in her 29-year tenure, she has taken ICICI Group to another level of success and she has also been the key instrument in setting up various businesses for them too!

Besides setting up various group businesses for ICICI including investment banking and retail finance; in 1992, she involved herself in setting up ICICI Securities which was a joint venture between ICICI and JP Morgan. Followed by that; in 1995, she shifted to ICICI Securities and was then deputed to JP Morgan & Co. After showing them the right path, in 1997 Shikha made a comeback to ICICI as their new Managing Director & CEO for ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company and a year later also became the Managing Director of ICICI Personal Financial Services.

Since then, for the next few years (till 2009 to be precise) she served ICICI with her complete heart and mind.

Apart from the many achievements while being a part of ICICI; Shikha proved her worth in 2008, when the ICICI’s market share became around 13%; whereas, its closest competitor gained 9.4% (new business annual premium equivalent). To add to that; in 2008-09, ICICI Prudential credited nine million policies since inception and recorded total premium earnings of INR 15,356 crore, while its new business premium earnings was INR 6,484 crore.


After ICICI; her next stint was Axis Bank! She took over the position of the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Axis Bank on June 1, 2009, replacing PJ Nayak, who took off in a rather huff before his term ended.

And regardless of this confused entry and overcoming all the difficulties and hurdles thrown on her path; Shikha successfully has, over the past 5 long years, brought about extensive changes at the bank and at the same time has maintained continuity on a number of fronts.

Axis bank has grown and continues to grow bigger by every passing day, under her leadership. The “Vision 2015” documented by her, has accomplished almost every milestone set by her for the bank.

Primarily a corporate bank at large since its inception in 1994, Axis Bank has now achieved roughly 36% retail assets. Amongst the top ten banks of India; the growth of its low-cost CASA, simply known as ‘current and savings account,’ has been the strongest, and it has been topping the list in debt syndication for years as well.

As of June 2014; Axis bank has assets of Rs 3.79 lakh crore, has grown their ‘return on equity’ to nearly 18%, brought down and maintained their net non-performing assets of 0.44 percent, have increased to over 2,400 branches and 11,796 ATMs making it the largest ATM network pan India and have grown to become a strong corporate and retail franchise.

Other than that; since Shikha’s appointment as MD & CEO of Axis Bank in 2009, the bank’s stock has grown by an extraordinary 90% and the Bank’s assets have grown by 30% in 2012-13 to USD 55 billion. Not to forget; under her leadership the Bank has also expanded in foreign markets like Singapore and Hong Kong too!


Even though Shikha has faced many hurdles in ICICI too, but she considers Axis Bank to be as her toughest stint in her 34-year old career, that to for quite a few reasons!

To begin with; given the conditions she was handed over in, the challenges were more personal because, Shikha had never before been a part of a commercial banking organization.

Although she had spent close to three decades with the ICICI group performing various roles which included everything from setting up its investment banking wing to running consumer lending and personal services divisions and not forgetting its insurance company too but she had never been a part-of or handled commercial banking solely.

So before anything else; primarily Shikha had to understand the key things that made Axis Bank function and at the same time understanding the theoretical structure of how all parts of the banking business connected to each other, was very important too.

Then once that was figured; the second part of the struggle was that, Axis Bank back then in Fiscal Year 2009 had a very strong track record with a balance sheet size of INR 1.47 lakh crore and net profits of around INR 1,815 crore, and a five-year compound yearly profit growth rate of 45.51%. Hence, what needs to be fixed or introduced had to be figured too!

Now Axis Bank did have some basic similarities with ICICI Prudential Life, but unlike ICICI, there was absolutely no one to guide her or even show her the path during her most crucial, initial days. And on a broader scale things were very different too; one for example being that, ICICI Prudential was a joint venture, and Axis Bank was a publicly listed company. It was like being handed over a flying aircraft, mid-air!

What helped her most in settling quickly was the fact that; India was recovering well from the financial crisis of 2008, thus making her job far more easier and also that Axis was very apolitical which made it easy to deal with people who were straightforward and respectful too!

Awards and Recognitions

  • Transformational Business Leader of the Year’ at AIMA’s Managing India Awards – 2012
  • Woman Leader of the year’ at Bloomberg – UTV Financial Leadership Awards – 2012
  • Businessworld’s Banker of the Year Award – 2012
  • Forbes List of Asia’s 50 Power Business Women – 2012
  • Indian Express Most Powerful Indians – 2012
  • India Today Power List of 25 Most Influential Women – 2012
  • Finance Asia’s Top 20 Women in Finance – 2011
  • Business Today ‘Hall of Fame’ – 2011
  • Fortune Global and India list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business – 2011
  • Businesswoman of the Year at the Economic Times Awards – 2008
  • Entrepreneur of the Year – Manager at the E&Y Entrepreneur Awards – 2007
  • Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year, CNBC TV 18’s Business Leader Awards

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikha_Sharma


  • She eagerly wanted to opt for Physics but because it wasn’t available in LSR College, she settled with Economics.
  • Inspired by her mother-in-law, Shikha has also learned classical music.
  • Until May 2009, Shikha also acted as a Non-Executive and Non-Independent Director of Firstsource Solutions Limited and an Independent Director of ACC Limited.
  • Since September 2009; Mrs. Sharma has also served as a Company Secretary and Compliance Officer for FE (India) Limited as well as the Managing Director for Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd.
  • Axis Bank has no women executives in the next three tiers after her and at large they have very few women employees too!

End Note

In a male dominated financial world, Shikha has successfully carved a place for herself. She is that kind of person who has climbed every ladder of success with just her hardwork and intelligence, overcoming all the hurdles and challenges that have come in her path, without the hand of any godfather being on her head.

Reaching to the position she is now, she has become a role model for many such women who aspire to be leaders of the world to come!


YoChef puts the spotlight on emerging businesses and reputed personalities to help young entrepreneurs learn from their experiences. Watch out for posts published under YoChef to discover entrepreneurial journeys and life lessons.

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