W Power 2024

Seethalakshmy Narayanan: The finance wizard

Narayanan has walked the talk at 29. She is the youngest-ever vice president at Premji Invest in its 17-year history and has led seven investments aggregating over $300 million

Salil Panchal
Published: Feb 27, 2024 01:46:59 PM IST
Updated: Feb 28, 2024 03:16:13 PM IST

Seethalakshmy Narayanan: The finance wizardSeethalakshmy Narayanan, Vice president, Premji Invest Photo: Mexy Xavier; Directed By: Kapil Kashyap; Outfit: Pooja Shroff; Jewellery: Bling Thing Styled By: Zainab Shakir; Assistant Stylists: Mannat Bhalla, Samridh Gupta

Seethalakshmy Narayanan | 29
Vice president, Premji Invest

Hailing from a middle-class family from Pallasaana village in Palakkad district of Kerala, Seethalakshmy Narayanan, has walked the talk at 29. She is the youngest-ever vice president at Premji Invest in its 17-year history, having led seven investments aggregating over $300 million.

After shifting to Mumbai for further studies, Seethalakshmy decided to pursue chartered accountancy, like her elder sister Vijayalakshmy, who now works as a finance manager with British Orchard Nursery in Dubai.

“I have always been competitive,” Seethalakshmy says, talking about being inspired by her elder sister. After gaining an AIR (All India Rank) 35 in her CA finals in 2016, she opted for investment banking due to its scope for a better remuneration. She then joined Investec, which was hiring analysts in 2016, and after a three-year stint, worked as an investment associate at True North till early 2021.

After joining Premji Investments, she has worked on deals involving GlobalBees, FirstCry and KreditBee earlier, and Lotus Surgicals and Mintifi in 2023.

Premji Invest, a private equity firm, gets its money from the Azim Premji Foundation, with the purpose to build enduring companies in the financial services, manufacturing, industrials, consumer and enterprise tech space.

Premji Invest has assets under management of $10-12 billion split between India and US operations.

Premji Invest worked with Mintifi to enhance their supply-chain financing business. The firm provides supply-chain payments, invoicing and purchase financing solutions to distributors and retailers in the supply-chain space.

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“During our process, Seethalakshmy single-handedly managed the commercial and financial due diligence on behalf of Premji, while working with us on several aspects of the deal, including negotiating with one of our early investors for providing them an exit, and structuring the entire MSOPs for the management team,” says Anup Agarwal, CEO of Mintifi. It’s rare to come across someone who, at such an early stage of her career, has built a strong cross-functional expertise and the maturity of handling multiple stakeholders in the highly competitive financial world.

Seethalakshmy believes that MSME financing, cross border supply-chain financing and wealth management will emerge as key areas of growth for India’s economy.  “Great investments are done when you have gone through the cycle of investing—the real long-term multiplier in investment comes when one backs the right set of investors and founders and weather through the longer financial market downturn,” she says.

Seethalakshmy Narayanan: The finance wizard

She plans to become a principal and then a partner over the next three to five years. “Before I turn 40, I wish to start a private equity firm of my own,” says Seethalakshmy. With financial acumen, negotiating skills and having managed large deals, all of this looks possible.

(This story appears in the 23 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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