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May 27, 2002 | 1600 IST
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Meet Sinha Jr: Managing finance runs in the blood

V Phani Kumar

The father manages India's finances. The son is now doing that for India's third largest business house.

Meet Sumant Sinha, the Rs 270 billion Aditya Birla group's newly appointed 37-year-old president (corporate finance).

While top-level corporate appointments are fairly commonplace, Sinha's appointment hit the headlines instantly. Reason: Sumant is the son of finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

And that relationship, as many other star children may vouch for, is a double-edged sword. The corporate world has already begun to read more into the appointment, but Santrupt Misra, Birla group HR director, says, "Surely, capable sons of famous fathers have the right to their own successful careers."

Sinha made it to the top financial seat at the Birla group, piping 24 other strong contenders from across the globe, two of whom were shortlisted along with him, to the post.

He has proved his mettle in the past 14 years, during which he has performed-ably one might say-as a top financial executive in several domestic and multinational firms, in and outside India.

Sinha Jr graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, before completing his Masters degree in international banking and finance from Columbia University, New York. Sinha looks like a younger version of his father, and his colleagues say that he comes across as a man with refined tastes. He has been described as a level-headed executive.

In his spare time, Sinha loves to read, and listen to music. Married to Vaishali, a professionally qualified person in her own right, Sinha has a five-year-old daughter, Tarushree.

He takes control of the AV Birla group's purse strings at a post that was left vacant for the past one year after his predecessor, Rajeev Goel, quit to take up a plum assignment with chipmaker Intel, even before he could give a definitive shape to the Birlas' ambitious international foray.

Now it is up to Sinha Jr, who had a taste of the Eastern Europe and South Asian markets as a vice-president in charge of developing Citicorp's business in emerging markets, to establish the Birlas' presence in the region. Sinha had then joined ING Barings' as director in charge of operations in the same region, and oversaw Barings' debt market operations.

Group chairman Kumaramangalam Birla is not only looking at expanding his operations in East Europe and Southeast Asia, but several group companies could hit the international markets with debt or equity offerings. Several large projects and acquisitions are also on the horizon.

Says Misra, "His experience with international capital markets will be a big advantage for us."

On their part, the Birlas expect him to also look after the group's new operations, enhance their cash value added, oversee investor relations, bring transparency to financial reporting, and introduce best practices in financial management.

But most of all, the Birlas expect Sinha to prove himself a good strategist, to display all-round management skills, and not just financial acumen.

Heralding the group's foray into untested waters will be Sinha's biggest challenge yet. The coming few months will not only show how Sinha Jr measures up to the mandate that he's been handed, but also how adept he is at growing out of his father's shadow.

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