As a graduate student, my day began at dawn. I used to catch the 5:15am bus to my ICWA coaching centre, attend college after that and then spend the evenings acquiring mastery over the typewriter. Thanks to this rigorous approach, I got a job mere days after graduating. The year was 1985.
But my stint at D B Madan & Co proved to be more than a job. It became my launch pad into a future I couldn’t yet envisage. I had to take care of income tax and clearing and marketing. I learnt to be diligent about paperwork and honed my English due to the influence of my bosses Mr Venkatrathnam and Mr Devarajan. You might say that this was my first real foray into the language, having dealt primarily in Tamil till that time.
I was also given special permission to attend an evening college to acquire my M.A. in Economics. I made up for this by working seven days a week. Since my college was 35km from home, I would return home only by 11:30 pm. When in my present life, I am ferried around in comfortable cars, I often recall those hundreds of nights when I walked the last 1.5km to my home in sheer darkness with only swaying palm trees to keep me company.
In 1989, I became a government employee, joining the Defence Ministry in Delhi. It soon became clear I did not belong in that world. I quit in six months.
The next six months, I remained jobless and experienced the full weight of my financial dependencies till Ceasefire Industries, a maker of fire extinguishers, hired me as a direct marketing executive. I relocated to Trichy and spent the next two years getting used to doors being slammed in my face. Seventeen-hour workdays ensured that I earned double my salary, which was 1500 rupees, through incentives. The stint toughened me; I learnt sales, the art of dealing with various kinds of people, and the resilience required to cope with difficult situations. I daresay that this stint equipped me with key skills that have come in handy as I lead Entrust.
In the Spring of 1993, I joined the Dalal Street Journal Group as a Regional Product Manager, responsible for the sales and distribution of their software solutions. The job brought me back to metropolitan India and kept me travelling between Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
At this juncture, I must add that my desire to be an entrepreneur can be traced back to my relationship with Mr Krishnan, a distant relative and a man I admired. In his youth, he was so broke that he often slept on platforms of the Chennai Central Station. But he was a bamboo, sprouting deep roots so that he could shoot up to great heights. The moment of his growth came in the form of a phone call from a senior shipping agent, asking him to handle a consignment. Mr Krishnan promptly borrowed money for the task, took a bus to Tuticorin and transformed his life. Soon, he was a multi-millionaire living in a mansion and commanding a fleet of lorries. His drivers worshipped him for his humility and generosity. As I got to know him better, I began aping him. I too wanted to be an entrepreneur. My first attempt at entrepreneurship had already occurred when in 1985, I opened a sweetmeat shop named Tastemakers in the Madhavaram area of north Chennai. It was run by my father and stayed operational for around three years. The second attempt at entrepreneurship was a joint venture with my brother – in late 1994 or perhaps early 1995, while I was working in the Dalal Street Journal Group, we founded a consultancy services firm for government agencies, but it did not last long. When I quit the Dalal Street Journal Group in December 1996 and joined Karvy, I founded a bill discounting company named Credit & Funds. Not only did it provide extra revenue for me, it also helped Karvy drive business and trim down their payment cycles. Meanwhile, as an employee of Karvy, I set up multiple branches in various cities, recruited relationship managers, acquired new clients and serviced them with a bevy of financial products. It was a fruitful time which ended when I quit Karvy in 1999; not coincidentally, I also closed Credit & Funds.
So far, I had failed thrice in my attempts to become an entrepreneur. But it was difficult to feel too disheartened because I was entering the big league. It was 1999 and I was now a Vice President of Kotak Mahindra Bank. Thus began a thirteen-year stint at a company that has a special place in my heart. My major focus areas were creating and leading a team of private bankers and, more importantly, client servicing. As I enrolled new clients, managed their portfolios and deepened my relationship with them, I knew I had found my niche. This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, except that I wanted to do more of it and expand the manner in which a client’s financial needs get serviced.
I suppose Entrust was an idea waiting to happen. When I founded it, the first core tenet I gave myself was that I will earn no commission when I choose financial products for my clients because that is a clear conflict of interest. I therefore gave myself the mandate to create a viable business model in which all the revenue comes from one solitary source: the client. There would be no mixed loyalties at Entrust. With us at the helm of their financial affairs, our clients will sleep easy and feel reassured while pursuing their career ambitions.
This core tenet laid the foundation of Entrustian culture. Two years later, the journey of the book began with an organisation branding project. Since then, the idea of Wise Wealth has become more deeply entrenched in my psyche and, I daresay, the collective Entrustian psyche.
Where do we go from here? That’s easy enough to answer: our mission is to increase the Wise Wealth Quotient of the world. We will embody and evangelise the concept and we will proudly continue to serve the wisely wealthy using our boutique and expansive Multi-Family Office model.