- Programme: EMBA 2013
- Nationality: Indian
Rajat is an accomplished finance professional having more than 18 years of comprehensive experience in financial services spanning across leading banks and big 4 audit firms. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant and has completed his EMBA from London Business School. After working at key senior positions in banks across GCC, he is now the Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Djibouti (CBD). CBD is a commercial bank licensed by the Central Bank of Djibouti to offer banking services in Djibouti.
You have an extensive background in accounting, what made you decide that it was time to do an EMBA and why London Business School?
I was trained as a CA in India and have developed strong skills in banking and finance in India and in the GCC. However, I always had the inclination to understand the complete business cycle and events outside the finance department and get the 360 degree view of the business to reach a C-level position. In order to achieve my ambition, I was required to augment my skills and a degree in Business Administration from a premier institute was a perfect match
I chose to pursue my EMBA from LBS because LBS is one of the premier business schools, ranking in top five schools in the world. I always believe that globally renowned faculty and intelligent peers from diverse backgrounds and industries immensely enhance your experience on an overall basis in a business school. Moreover, LBS has a campus in Dubai which allowed me to pursue my education without compromising on my career.
What are the key lessons that you learned from your EMBA?
You need to overcome your fears and do whatever you are required to do to achieve your goals. EMBA gave me an understanding of requirements, timing and process of making key decisions in an organisation. It helped me to focus on the big picture and make the right choices to take a business to the next level. It also gave me the confidence to move on to the commercial side of the business compared to the back office operations of an organisation. It strengthened my willingness to transform myself from being an employee to become an entrepreneur. One of the best advices I received was from our professors that you can excel in where your passion lies and pursue the field where your expertise are. So I focused on providing advisory services to banks and simultaneously worked on setting up a bank in Africa.
You grew up in India, worked in the GCC (mostly UAE and Kuwait), and now run the CBD. How do you approach the cultural differences as a manager?
I feel that the differences in the working environment between India and the UAE are narrowing down. Both the regions have globally competent and highly educated workforce with high levels of professionalism. The UAE though is more diverse as it brings people from all over the world with different cultures working styles. In Eastern Africa, we always felt the need of more well-trained and qualified professionals in banking industry which has a direct impact on the manner in which the work is done and quality of work delivered.
We started in Djibouti with a team of five persons, mostly fresher and groomed them as per our requirements and expectations. We invested considerable time and resources in training our team and developing their skills. We have seen dramatic improvements in the team and now we are confident that the team is capable of doing the job professionally.
How do you see Dubai plays a role in the development of Africa?
Dubai positions itself as a hub for global trade and has a strategic location between East and West (including Africa). UAE leaders have a strong forward thinking vision and believe that regional growth is essential for their own growth too. Dubai can play an important role for Africa as a facilitator to exchange human capital and technology in addition to being a strong trading hub for African region.
Djibouti has been working on a vision to position the country as the “Dubai of the Horn of Africa”. What are your thoughts on this?
Djibouti is on the right track of growth and development to achieve this position. The country has immense growth potential underlined by a strategic location at the point of entry to East Africa and beginning of Suez Canal which is the busiest shipping corridor of the world. We decided to set up CBD in Djibouti due to its exceptional location which gives access to the Ethiopian consumer base which exceeds 80 million people as majority of the imports for Ethiopia are done from Djibouti Port. Investors are convinced in the growing potential of Djibouti and are committing investments into the county which is positioned to be the main platform for trade in the region.
As a conclusion and as an advice to our alumni community, I would encourage any alumnus to consider Africa and especially Djibouti in your next business expansion plans or new investments.