Zubair Iqbal


A very composed person, who speaks in a very measured tone, weighing each word carefully, Zubair Iqbal has come a long way since he took his first job with Jammu & Kashmir Bank. Today, as State Head & Vice President of HDFC Bank in J&K, besides notching new highs for himself and the Bank, he finds time to share his experience & knowledge with the students of Business Schools of the University of Kashmir & Jammu, Mata Vishno Devi University, Central University of Kashmir, Islamic University of Science & Technology. Besides work, Zubair liked Sufi poetry, traveling, and driving. Between all these activities, he took out time to accommodate a few questions from  www.thecherrytree.in.

Some extracts from a discussion with Rajesh Prothi.

You are being looked like the man responsible for inducing competition and professionalism in the banking industry in the State of Jammu & Kashmir? How have you been able to achieve this task?
Z. Iqbal: ‘Thinking Big” is a philosophy I have embraced since childhood and it has proven to be an effective way to achieve success. I had always earnest desire to do something for the Society and standout from the herd. And when the opportunity came in 2004 in the shape of HDFC Bank, I took up the challenge and started the first branch of HDFC Bank in Kashmir. The Branch started operations in January 2005. At that time the private sector was little known in J&K especially Kashmir and even a lot of my friends were skeptical about its success and raised eyebrows about my decision. However, with the blessings of my parents, the support of my wife, hard work put up by my team members, and the trust reposed by our customers, the branch delivered beyond expectations and created history in so many internal parameters of the Bank. Basis the performance of this branch, I was elevated to Cluster Head position just after 18 months (perhaps fastest in the Bank’s history) and was given the responsibility to Head J&K and North Punjab branches. This was the kind of break I was looking at and thereafter I have never looked back and took the network of branches in J&K to 60 and ATMS to 165 with a team of just five people. This expansion created job opportunities for the youth in the state and today I have the privilege to lead a strong team of over 1000 employees. During this time we have been able to create over 600 indirect job opportunities for the State Subjects. We have emerged as one of the largest employers in Private Sector in J&K and have become a vehicle for economic growth. In a short span of time, we have taken our CD Ratio to 42% with a significant contribution in the priority sector.

What are the challenges for the new generation which were not there during your times? 
Z. Iqbal: Challenges were always there. During our times may be the challenges were not many but at the same time opportunities were also limited. The new generation has a lot of challenges thrown open by competition and globalization and at the same time, they have multiple opportunities available also. Private Sector has grown manifold and offers multiple options. In today’s world winning has become very important. During our times the journey was more meaningful. The constant pursuit towards overcoming one’s own limitations or you can say that during our time, our focus was more towards elevating ourselves in uniformity, in all areas. While today, we live in an era of specialization

You came across as a very articulate & composited person. How are these two elements helping you to move forward? 
Z. Iqbal: I believe in the clarity of the goal and the sincere and sustained effort to accomplish that goal are key ingredients to success. Everyone likes to win but how many are willing to put in that extra effort and time to prepare to win. It takes sacrifices, self-discipline, and above all honest and dedicated approach. Whatever, I have achieved today has not come by chance or luck.

I had to put in a lot of hard work, determination, sustained efforts, and above all positive attitude with ethics and integrity. There is no substitute for hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you get. You have to be cool, calm, and composite in all circumstances. You will never get ideal conditions in life. With every difficulty, with every obstacle, with every failure, I got more empowered, more energized, and nearer to my goal. Maybe these are the reason that I come across as what I am today.

You belong to a generation that grew up in a relaxed manner, enjoying Kashmir. What are your memories from those times?
Z. Iqbal: Yes, definitely I cherish those days and enjoyed every bit of it. The memories of my childhood, School Days, and College & University Life really make me nostalgic. I remember my first day in the school and at the end of the day, my younger brother & cousin waiting for me outside the school with my tricycle which I drove down-home and they followed me. I still remember the day when I got 120 marks out of 100 in class 7th and that Mathematics teacher was summoned by the Principal as other students had protested. In fact, I still remember that I had attempted 12 questions instead of 10 and he had given marks to all. Playing Cricket on Sundays at Eidgah with friends, educational tours to Goa, Mumbai & Chennai during College and University days are as fresh as yesterday’s chores. I miss those friends.

The memories of sipping Tea & Samosa under the shade of Big Chinar Trees in Naseem Bagh Campus of University make me nostalgic and compel me to say ‘Koi Lota Dey Meray Beetay Huay Din”.

What is your message for the generation which is at the fag end of their academics and about to step into a professional world?
Z. Iqbal: There is a perception that academic excellence and ability is the only contributing factor to success. I differ here and feel that one should combine his ability, knowledge, and skill with the right attitude and passion to excel. I believe every person has inherent talent and it all depends on how effectively, efficiently, and passionately he or she channelizes his or her energies to become a successful person. One should set a goal early in his career and pursue that goal. One has to be ‘Hungry for Success’. People don’t succeed by accident, by coincidence, or as a result of luck. It takes a lot of preparation and character. Opportunity knocks on your door only once. Whenever opportunity knocks seize it. You don’t have to be born with abilities; you can develop a winning attitude at any age.

You have already created a niche for yourself and everything seems to be going your way. What have been your key ingredients to success? What are your future plans and where do you see yourself five years down the line?
Z. Iqbal: I really believe that in order to succeed you have to be good, smart and know your business; you also need to go against the tide which may take a lot of guts and conviction.

In some of the best strategies I have made, I went against what everybody else believed. We all have instincts. The important thing is to know how to use them. You may have superb academic credentials, but if you do not use your instincts, you might have a hard time getting to and staying at the top. I have never been complacent. I never rest even if things may be going in the right direction. “Good Times” is only a result of hard work and dedication. Today’s efforts produce the results of tomorrow. I believe that in order to keep the good times rolling; we need to keep on planting those seeds every day. If you stop focusing even for one minute, you will start slipping backward. It took many years of hard work and intense focus to get to the top. However, this would have not been possible without the untiring efforts put in by all categories of my staff and the mentorship of Mr. Ravi Narayanan, Senior Executive Vice President, HDFC Bank who gave the required flip to my personality and fined tuned my career to achieve the impossible. Regarding future plans let me say, we have just made the beginning and we are yet to conquer the skies. I have never really thought about where I want to see myself five years down the line but this journey towards excellence will continue and I believe if you work with sincerity, integrity, and ethics, destinations will follow and you will have the liberty and privilege to choose among them.