Ramdas Shenoy in conversation with Ramesh Srinivasan on Investment Banking scene, life, equity financing and learning from the younger generation.
Your journey from being a Chartered Accountant in 1986 to now as a Managing Director and CEO at Kotak Investment Banking?
Investment banking was at its nascent stage when I started working, and I must be grateful to my first employer ICICI Limited for giving me the platform to learn. It was providential that at ICICI Securities, I got the opportunity to interact with Kotak Mahindra Group and was immensely inspired by their culture and energy. Kotak Mahindra Group’s commitment to Investment Banking allowed me to learn and improve constantly. I often got to work on new problems and assignments, which made my experience comprehensive and unique and positioned me well to provide customized client solutions.
How has the opportunities landscape changed for the investors in the last 3 decades?
The investor landscape has evolved and changed quite dramatically over the years. There is greater dominance of local and foreign institutional investors in the Indian market, and every conceivable foreign investor is invested in India. The Indian retail investor, a large number, now predominantly invests through mutual funds in the Indian markets. The “Domestic” investor subset has become large and relevant in the Indian capital markets.
India has aggressively got into the start-up stage—how do you see it vis-à-vis traditional business houses?
I do not see this as one-or-the-other. Both have their important roles in the Indian economy. Start-up entrepreneurs are young, brilliant people who have innovated ideas into business models with the support of private capital. They have been responsible for an ecosystem we could not have imagined 10 years back. For instance, Zomato or Swiggy, PharmEasy, Nykaa and UrbanClap are some examples of new entrepreneurs who have made history. India will see the continuous growth of start-ups that will disrupt and innovate.
The traditional business houses will also do their share of innovation and use scale, growth, and experience to expand themselves. They will be large employers and will co-exist in a very material way with the new entrepreneurs.
Can you briefly tell us about equity financing business at Kotak?
The equity finance business at Kotak is done through Investment Banking, Securities Broking, and Lending. This is an important business for the group, and there have been many innovations in this business at Kotak.
What will be your advice to young aspirants who want to venture into finance as a domain?
Chase Excellence and rewards in monetary terms will accrue as a by-product. Young aspirants should first develop a hunger to learn the various ingredients of finance as a domain and, over time, specialize in a niche or an area in which they are passionate and can excel. I believe in “Substance” over “Form”; therefore, it is critical to deeply understand their domain over time. I would also like to add that young people should have very high ethical standards to always be on the “right” way of doing things.
Who are your idols and inspiration in life? What is Ramesh when he is not a CEO at Kotak Investment Banking?
My idols and inspirations have kept changing basis my stage of life. When I started my early life, I was awestruck by watching Mr. KV Kamath at ICICI Limited, who was so dynamic and was always ahead of his time. I had the fortune of watching Kotak Mahindra Group grow from a relatively small business to what it is today, and I have been inspired by Mr. Uday Kotak’s foresight, principles, and gravitas of doing things.
I have learnt a lot watching him at the top of the group. I am very attached to my home and like to be available to do those “little-little” things for my family members, which they value. Even in my role, I strive to be humble and not get carried away by my position. At this stage, I learn several things debating with youngsters around me whose simple but analytical approach to practical aspects of life inspires me. I give importance to yoga and walking and love listening to old Hindi movie songs, particularly in a live orchestra.
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