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April 15, 1999


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The Rediff Business Profile/Vivek Reddy

'Mutual fund management offers excitement every day'

Shobha Warrier in Madras

Vivek Reddy, CEO of Kothari Pioneer Mutual Fund For Vivek Reddy, every new challenge is like a new tennis match. And he looks for new challenges all the time.

As a boy, he wanted to be a professional tennis star. But after playing at the state and national level, he realised he did not have it in him to become a world class player.

Engineering beckoned, so he enrolled at the Guindy ngineering College, Madras. Next. he flew to the US to do MBA with specialisation in finance.

Presto, finance excited him! Which meant adieu to what could have been a career in engineering.

Armed with a green card, he returned to India "for personal reasons" and began working for the Grindlays Bank. "I came back in 1990 and it surprised me a lot to find that mutual funds are controlled by only the public sector in India. But I saw tremendous potential for mutual funds. I prepared pages and pages of documents on mutual funds. That was the time when Dr Manmohan Singh began the liberalisation process," he recollects.

When Singh threw open the mutual fund industry to the private sector, Reddy got in touch with the Kothari group and presented his paper.

The Kotharis were impressed. "They had confidence in me and I had confidence in them." It was a comparatively easy task for him to bring the Kotharis and the Pioneer together. But the government proved a tougher nut. Approvals were not easy to obtain. A question would often pop up from government circles: ''Is there any precedent so that we can okay your proposal?"

In Reddy's words, "There was no one before us. We had to really work hard to get those approvals." Did frustration set in? "No. I found it all very exciting. We wanted to beat everybody and make our venture the first one in India. We used to get approval letters from the SEBI at 7 pm, asking for some changes in the offer documents. We used to work on Saturdays and Sundays and reply by Sunday evening!"

Vivek Reddy, CEO of Kothari Pioneer Mutual Fund From the first employee of the first private mutual fund, Reddy has climbed the corporate ladder up to the chief executive's office.

Five years on, Reddy's hunger for excitement remains. "I am committed to mutual funds right now. Once we raise Rs 60-100 billion, may be then I will get bored with this. Then I may look for fresh challenges."

When KPMF started operations in 1993, they had collected Rs 6 billion. In 1996-97, growth was negative, collection plummeted to Rs 2.7 billion. In 1998, however, the figure swelled to Rs 5.7 billion.

Reddy attributes the turnaround to the "American work atmosphere". "There is no formality in our office. All of us are relaxed and casual and we have a lot of fun working. The work atmosphere should be enjoyable, result-oriented and rewarding."

At 36, Reddy is the daddy of the team, while the baby of the team is aged 28, and the average age of the crew is 30.

"When work does not stress me out, work itself is relaxation for me. Other than work, I spend sometime with my kids, I play tennis," says Reddy.

Interview with Vivek Reddy

Photographs: Sanjay Ghosh


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