From cricket to mutual funds

Viksit Rohatgi manages assets worth Rs 200 crore in mutual funds.
By Morningstar |  04-05-18 | 
 

Early life

Viksit Rohatgi always had a knack for sales. After graduating from college, Viksit worked in sales department of a few firms. Though he did well as a sales professional, he realized he wasn’t full capitalizing on his skills and thought of working for himself.  His quest to become an entrepreneur made him quit his job, without knowing what do next.

Before he developed interest in sales, Viksit was an avid cricketer. He represented his school and college in cricket tournaments and aspired to play at the national level. Due to an unfortunate accident, he had to give up playing the sport.  Though he doesn’t play now, he religiously watches all matches.

An ex-banker, Viksit’s father wanted him to become a Probationary Officer. Reluctantly, he heeded his father’s advice. Viksit got through the bank exam but didn’t show up for interview, as he wished to chase his entrepreneurial dream. Instead, he joined his maternal uncle’s firm which used to manufacture hygiene equipment for hotels. He was given the responsibility of sales. Slowly, he learned the nuances of the trade and developed good contacts with prospects. Viksit helped grew the company’s order book so much that his uncle was not able to ramp up production at the same pace.

Owing to ailing health, his uncle wanted him to look after production as well. But Viksit realized that shifting his focus from sales to production would lose his grip from selling skills, something which was keen to nurture. So he passed this opportunity.

Brush with finance

Viksit got introduced to finance by his business acquaintance. The gentlemen introduced Viksit to late Sardari Lal Khera, father of Delhi-based distributor Anil Khera. S L Khera had immigrated to India from Pakistan after the country’s partition. He had no money when he arrived in India and built everything from scratch.

After much struggle, S L Khera got a job as an assistant for a leading eye doctor in Delhi. As the salary just made ends meet, he started looking for some additional income from part time assignments. With the permission of his employer, senior Khera took up distribution of LIC and postal saving scheme to supplement his income. He excelled in his agency work as his income started surpassing his salary. Encouraged by success, the doctor recommended S L Khera to make it his full-time profession. He took the plunge and went on to build a successful client base of retail and high net worth clients. In the meantime, his son Anil Khera joined the business.

A long collaboration

S L Khera offered Viksit to join his firm as an associate on a commission sharing basis. After joining Khera’s firm, Viksit analyzed the book and noticed that some old clients had stopped investing through the firm.  Vikisit hit the ground running and got in touch with many such orphan clients and won back their loyalties. This helped the firm increase wallet share from these clients.

Viksit helped the firm win many accolades. “Mr. Khera wanted the firm to qualify for MDRT. I started learning about insurance and helped him qualify for Million Dollar Round Table and Top of Table for five consecutive years,” recalls Viksit.

Viksit was also given the responsibility to diversify the firm’s offerings beyond postal savings. But Mr. Khera was particular that he did wish to sell exotic products. Viksit started his research which led him towards mutual funds. Initially, Mr. Khera was not comfortable with mutual funds due to their inherent risks. Viksit convinced Mr. Khera that mutual funds were not as risky due to their ability to diversify.

Unit Trust of India’s US-64 was the only mutual fund which they could offer to clients at that time. Many of their clients had invested in this scheme. Viksit’s research on U-64 helped many retail investors cut losses before the scheme ran into trouble. “There was no portfolio disclosure in US-64. How could a mutual fund scheme offer assured returns, high dividends, irrespective of market conditions? How could the net asset value increase every month? I got worried and started gathering data from newspapers. From the limited disclosures, I found that the scheme had made some investment in real estate stocks which raised eyebrows. I grew increasingly skeptical about the scheme and started connecting with clients and explained them the risk. I advised clients to reduce exposure to US-64. Finally, the scheme got bust and clients appreciated my effort. This helped the firm gain immense trust,” says Viksit.

However, the trouble didn’t end there. Viksit moved client money into technology funds which were a fad back then. “I recommended technology funds without understanding the risk. After the tech bubble, I was running away from clients as I was scared to face them. Realizing this was not correct, I went back to them and accepted my mistakes,” says Viksit.

Determined to make good the losses, he started studying markets and economy to get a better understanding of mutual funds. His research gave him the conviction that India was in a sweet spot. Convinced, he moved client’s money out from technology funds into diversified equity funds. Within three years, investors recouped all the losses from the past investments in technology funds and made profits. In the late 2005, the market took off. This helped the firm earn a lot of referrals.

During this time, he also started his own venture called Blue Circle Financial Services in 1995. However, he gave majority of business to Mr. Khera as they worked on a revenue sharing model.

Viksit introduced many bold practices which would be considered against the grain back then. Passing back commissions to clients was a common practice. According to Viksit, many independent advisers as well as large distribution outfits offered kickbacks to get business. Viksit grew fiercely against this culture. He convinced senior Khera to not part with commission revenues. “We set an industry precedence by putting an end to passbacks. Clients had faith in us. We were making the more or less same amount of profits as national players were making even with higher volumes as they were into passback model,” says Viksit.

Though their business kept growing, Viksit noticed that many of their clients were aging and he felt the need to reach out to the next generation of clients. “Call centres and many other businesses were flourishing. Anil and I discussed the opportunities we were losing out by having just one office in defense colony. Majority of our clients were created by S L Khera. We had to spread our wings out of defense colony and open more offices and reach out to youngsters. It was forward looking view. Mr. Khera agreed but Anil had some other thoughts,” says Viksit.

Going solo

Viksit thought the business would reach a saturation if they continued with status quo. Since Vikist was keen to grow further, senior Khera recommended him to go solo.

Viksit receives an award from Milkha Singh

Viksit receives an award from Milkha Singh.

In the meanwhile, Vikisit moved to Gurgaon and ended up spending a lot of his productive time in travelling to office. At that time, his firm Blue Circle had assets under advisory of Rs 30 crore. Viksit mulled over senior Khera’s suggestion and decided to go solo.

They ended the partnership in 2011. Viksit now runs his own practice. He holds the Khera family in high regard as they provided him a launching pad. “My emails were addressed as Vikshit Khera by clients. Clients thought I was part of Khera family. They used to consider me as Mr. Khera’s younger son,” says a nostalgic Viksit.

When Viksit decided to focus on his own business, many of his friends were skeptical of his move as the economy was in a bad shape. Nevertheless, Vikist put in place processes and systems in the meantime which helped his firm prepare for future. Once these things were in place and the market turned there was no looking back. From Rs 30 crore in 2011, his firm today manages assets worth Rs 200 crore in mutual funds which is contributed mainly by individual investors.

Though his office is in Gurgaon, his clients are spread across the country and globe. “One of my biggest clients is from Mumbai. She started working in Delhi and moved to Mumbai. She started with an investment of Rs 40,000 in 1999 with me. Despite being in the financial capital of the country, she invests through me in Gurgaon. She has referred me many clients,” says Vikist.

Vikist currently has a team of eight. Soon, his wife Ritu will be joining the firm. An MA in psychology, Ritu will take charge of administration, human resources and operations. “Ritu is more academically qualified than me. As priorities changed she sacrificed her career after our marriage. Now, our kids have grown up which has freed up her time. My son is pursuing chartered accountancy and daughter is in tenth grade. So Ritu has time for business. Once she joins, I can devote more time to business development,” says Viksit.

A constant learner

Viksit believes in continuously enhancing his professional skills to be on top of his game. While studying Certified Personal Financial Advisor he read the topic on transparency and ethics. He implemented these principles in his business by disclosing the percentage of commissions he earns on different products while recommending schemes to clients. Also, he asked fund houses to stop paying him upfront commission and moved his business to all-trail.

Client interest is not just a lip service for him. Interestingly, he has applied for a passport only in 2016. He has avoided going to junkets all these years. “One day I got a call from a relationship manager that I was just short of Rs 25 lakh net sales for winning the Europe trip. He said I can invest my personal money and qualify for this trip. I told him I don’t go to any sponsored trips,” says Viksit.

Using Morningstar Advisor Workstation to grow business

Vikist also believes in investing in business to grow. He has been actively using Morningstar Advisor Workstation, or AWS, for faster sales conversions. “When you are with prospects you have to be very articulate. But you may not have the same energy all the time. There could be days when you miss out on giving some information to clients. By using AWS, all I have to do is show the reports to prospects and 70% of my job is done because seeing is believing,” believes Viksit.

This post has been authored by Morningstar's Ravi Samalad.

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vijay kumar arya
May 6 2018 09:06 PM
Viksit is viksit. Really he is putting his full energy for VIKAS of his empire.
A good motivator and transparent in his work

I hope he will touch heights in his carrier and his life
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