Review of ‘If God was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramanian

The story is set in the 90s when India would seem to be an El Dorado for launching retail banking products to a burgeoning middle class starved for decades of consumerism and living the good life.

The title is certainly a catchy one and one got to hear of this book from friends and colleagues while working in the Banking industry. It may not everyone’s idea of literature but the novelty of the tale makes it interesting to begin with.

By: Rosemary Calvert Collection: Photographer's Choice Courtesy: Getty Images
By: Rosemary Calvert
Collection: Photographer’s Choice
Courtesy: Getty Images

Guess it is never really easy to write a book objectively if one were to cast oneself in the role of the protagonist. One seems to miss the scale of our own personality and the ‘blind spots’ that are so easily visible and read by others are just not captured to present a nuanced character with shades of grey.

But the premise of the book is interesting for most people particularly youngsters. Retail Banking riding on technology and liberalization is a great story and the India setting in recent times gives it a great topical value.

The Millennials are not easily shocked and the youthful misadventures may not seem much to them – one may even describe it as part of growing up. But the story is fairly steamy in the times and social class it is set in. Particularly in the traditional families, a lot of what happens would have been rightfully frowned upon though it may carry the value judgement nowadays of being patriarchal and chauvinistic in one’s approach.

Some of my friends read too much into it and even put down the differences to cultural stereotypes of an aggressive North Indian v/s the conservative South Indian. I find such explanations rather specious so don’t buy into them.

People politics and the shortcuts to achieve success aren’t new themes – but the narrative is interesting because it conveys what fits in well within the realm of possibilities. But that apart the characters are fairly cardboardish and the narrative is more like a string of stories and incidents put together. Some pieces do touch your heart – an idealistic Swami wanting to resign when he is outmaneuvered in the sweepstakes is real and touching. The Godfather too is an interesting character though his omnipotent ways are a bit too much to digest.

The end is predictable though there is a bit of twist and turn around it. So all is well that ends well. A bit surprising that no one has thought of making a movie on this one – it seems to have the right ingredients to attract the youth segment.

So I recommend that you read for sure for my Top 3 reasons –

  • Learn the reality of the 90s and how the retail finance boom originated in our country
  • Enjoy the story of a rise and rise of a young star from a very humble background – and to his credit the story is no fairy tale given it details the blood,sweat and tears that he poured in
  • Read it to get a sense of your personality and value systems. There are no shortcuts to success and while it may seem staid and boring, sustained performance does rest on sound values with a dash of risk taking and change management.

I just love the opening scenes being set in our own city of dreams – with the characters watching the ‘Queen’s necklace’ in the pricey South Bombay …


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