The SIP king of Jaipur

By Ravi Samalad |  22-11-19 | 
 
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About the Author
Ravi Samalad is Assistant Manager - Editoral for Morningstar.in.

After earning his Chartered Accountancy degree in 2002, Ashish went on a job hunt. He got placed with an insurance broking firm in Delhi.

In 2004, he came back to his hometown Jaipur to strike out on his own. His father suggested that they start with mutual fund distribution business. Those were the days when private sector fund houses had started mushrooming in India.

Since mutual funds were still a push product due to lack of awareness, Ashish learned most of the things on the job.

The period of 2002-07 was a dream run for stock markets, when Ashish made his debut as an adviser. He says was lucky to have started his business at that time. As clients were happy with the double-digit returns, getting referrals was easy. But the financial crisis of 2008-09 was the turning point. He realized that becoming a behavioral coach is more important than managing investments. “External things like interest rates, earnings, downgrades and regulations are not in our control. We have to control our investors behavior and focus on helping them reach their goals,” says Ashish.

Ashish observed that investors in Jaipur were reluctant to put larger sums as lumpsum. He thought selling systematic investment plans (SIP) would be a good idea to acquire clients, since they required commitment as little as Rs 500 per month. So he continued his focus on SIPs.

Little did Ashish knew that that the SIP concept would catch on with investors in a big way. Today, he has one of the largest SIP books of Rs 7 crore with 13,000 active SIPs in Jaipur. Owing to his commitment and zeal, his firm SLA Financial Solutions has become one of the largest mutual fund advisory firms in Jaipur, with assets under advisory of Rs 700 crore.

Focus on Goals

During his journey in advisory, Ashish learned that focusing on helping clients reach their goals is more important than positioning products. This has held him in good stead and earned him client trust. To bring this shift, Ashish stresses on the need for independent financial advisers (IFAs) to work on perception building. He advises that IFAs should work towards projecting themselves as advisers.  “If your business card or signboard says we deal in mutual funds, insurance, Kisan Vikas Patra, National Pension Scheme and LIC, you are agent,” says Ashish.  He practices what he preaches. His website has no mention about any products. The only message is reaching goals – budgeting, building emergency fund, kid’s education and risk management.

Ideal Clients

Young investors are not his ideal clients. He believes that most millennials tend to start investing for excitement with no real goal attached to their investments or they invest for just saving tax. His ideal client is a person who has responsibility about his family and wants to build a retirement corpus.

Scaling Up

The financial advisory space in India continues to evolve with constant regulatory changes. Despite the headwinds, Ashish has kept his focus on delivering excellence which ultimately helped his business grow. He is undeterred by shrinking margins. Rather, he believes that distributors should focus on what is in their control. “Don’t be despondent. Margins are coming down in every industry for the benefit of end consumers. So you need to scale up your business to increase revenues,” suggests Ashish.

Don’t Be Afraid of Competition

The tech wave has caught on in the mutual fund industry with the emergence of many startups and established players offering mutual fund investing on the go. Naturally, this has got distributors worried about migration of clients to such platforms. Ashish suggests that distributors need to work with clients who have certain goals to achieve. He feels this segment of clients are unlikely to migrate to online channels as they need handholding and guidance. “Most people investing through robos are youngsters with small ticket sizes. Invariably, they end up burning their fingers by investing in products looking at historical returns. These clients end up approaching IFAs for guidance. Managing investments on your own is dangerous. The moment the investment ticket size increases seriousness too increases. You can’t simply do net banking transaction worth crores for investing,” observes Ashish. He drives home his point by this analogy from cricket. “If you play galli (alleyway) cricket you don’t need a coach. When you play at the state or national level, a coach is required.”

Investor Awareness

In 2005, he got his first invitation to address the gathering about investing. Ashish was eloquent and could connect with audience very well. Since then there has been no looking back. He conducts or speaks at least three events every month. He also travels across the country to share his success story and his business strategy with budding IFAs. “Many IFAs conduct investor seminars but they lack consistently. The idea is to do it repetitively. It acts as a great way to connect with existing clients and find prospects,” suggests Ashish.

Talent Management

One of the common concerns of IFAs which Ashish has discovered is that they are not able to hire talent. Many of his peers ask him how he manages a team of 24. His recommendation to them is that they should not conduct business in fear. If they wish to grow, they have to have hire sales staff and not worry about attrition.

He shares an interesting anecdote of how he hired a driver in his team. I had to visit Delhi to meet some clients, so someone gave me this driver’s number.  I had to leave at 6 am so I told the driver to be punctual. The driver said that he will reach at 5.30 am. I told him that it is fine if he reaches by 6 am but be on time. He insisted that he will reach at 5.30 am, wash the car and then start the journey. I was impressed with his dedication to work. On the way to Delhi, I enquired if he wanted to work in my office and he obliged. Initially, he started as office boy as he had no experience in this field. Slowly, he learned the ropes. He learned to operate computer, passed relevant exams and today heads the company’s insurance vertical,” recalls Ashish.

When hunting for talent, he looks at a person’s passion towards work. Ashish doesn’t necessarily look for MBA degree. For him, integrity and sincerity are more important. “We are not brands. People who join big brands when they start their career want to put it in their resume. You have to trust your employees and empower them,” observes Ashish.

While Ashish looks after the business development and financial planning vertical, his wife handles operations. “I’m the face of the organization while Shweta is the soul,” says Ashish.

Ashish’s story is a shining example of how advisers have to dream big to taste success.

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