Sujit Mundul, chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Limited (SCBNL) retired on Saturday. He served Standard Chartered for more than three decades and deeply cherishes memories in Nepal where he served for eight precious years of the later part of his career. “This is a beautiful country that helped me relive my passion of writing and I shall continue to travel here till I die,” said Mundul in an interview with Milan Mani Sharma of Republica. Experts:
How does it feel to bid farewell?
Well, it´s been more than three decades in Standard Chartered and eight years in Nepal alone. It was nice and fulfilling service. Retirement was to come and has come. It is a part of life and a normal process. But I have been reappointed in the board of Standard Chartered Bank Nepal.
That means your engagements in Nepal will continue.
Yes. For now, I have decided to move back to Kolkata, which is my native place. My family is there. My mom is pretty old and since I don´t have a brother, I need to be at home. But what I have also decided is to continue to teach here in Kathmandu University School of Management. So, about 10 days a month I will stay in Nepal and balance 20 days in Kolkata.
You spent eight years in Nepal. What´s your experience with the country?
Nepal is a great country and people are really good. That inspired me all through to remain in this country. The country´s gone through and still going through a series of challenges. But the country also holds a huge potential. I am not talking about hydropower alone. Investment in tourism can generate manifold returns, but the country must put basics in right place. Infrastructure in particular is not that good. In some places where tourists want to go, there are no basic facilities, particularly for ladies. Airport in Kathmandu has no space to accommodate people. This is sad. I am sure things will move in a positive direction, for people have started thinking about those constraints.
What is your assessment of the Nepali banking industry?
It is growing and maturing. But presently, it is not in a good shape and does not inspire much confidence. There is asset bubble in the economy, particularly in the real estate sector. It is a cause of concern in a bigger way, for it can have spiraling impact in economy. That is number one problem facing the industry.
Number two is; there is a clear dearth of liquidity in the market due to multiple reasons: a chunk of money has left the country; other chunk is lying in cash at homes and still another portion is in treasury of the government. Once developmental expenses pick up, situation might change for good. But it will still not bring dramatic turnaround in situation. Thirdly, the economy is growing at a low rate of just over three percent, whereas inflation is high. The financial sector is bearing the brunt of this evil as well. If the political conundrum continues and peace process gets unduly delayed, I feel the situation will turn from bad to worse.
What were your most memorable moments in Nepal?
I am glad I was here when Janandolans happened. As a youth I had seen Naxalite movement. During my college/university days, Naxalite movement was at its peak. So, I have seen the bloodbath, intra-party rivalries, killings and bombings. Those paralyzed democratic institutions, system and society. And Janandolans here were completely different in nature. To witness that was of great experience. I also witnessed the country coming out of the old thought process; yearning for a more freedom, democracy. To be present in historical period and witness changes happening around in the Nepali society was truly memorable. I also treasure good experiences of traveling and trekking in Nepal. I love the natural beauty Nepal possesses. I will continue to travel in Nepal till I die. The country also helped me go back to my earlier passion of writing. In college university days I used to write frequently, but after that I was writing little. But in Nepal, I managed to relive my passion.
How many books have you written? Any plan of coming up with new one soon?
I have two books published: one here and one in India. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a new book. If I came up with more books, it will be only here in Nepal.
Who is taking over the charges of SCBNL now?
The matter is under consideration and is yet to be decided. I think the announcement will come in early May. Till then, a senior official at the bank will oversee the operations as the acting chief executive.
Sujit may like Nepal but he always looked down upon Nepalese staff and competence of banking industry in general. He always had very strong criticism of the weaknesess in the system, which many were aware of, but never did much to resolve it.