After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.
Kolhapur-based Ratnakar Bank had been operating as a local lender for seven decades. With a solid standing in the community, it rarely found the need to step outside its comfort zone. All that changed in 2010 when Vishwavir Ahuja and his team entered the bank with the goal of putting it on a firm growth path. Ahuja had taken this on as an entrepreneurial challenge: His aim was to build a professional organisation with high standards of risk management and corporate governance.
Ahuja acknowledges that, initially, there was resistance from the old guard who weren’t used to the cut-throat nature of the new-age banking world. For instance, employees who never had to go out and solicit business were now being asked to do just that. But three years after the transformation process started, the growth is self-evident. The bank’s deposits are up to Rs 8,340 crore in 2012-13 from Rs 1,585 crore in 2009-10. In the same period, net profit has more than quadrupled from Rs 19 crore to Rs 92 crore.
The man behind it
Ratnakar Bank’s transformation can be credited to its chief executive officer and managing director Ahuja. He held similar positions at Bank of America (for the Indian subcontinent), before he joined Ratnakar Bank as a director in February 2010 and took over as CEO in June 2010.
During Ahuja’s tenure at Bank of America, revenues had grown at 45 percent every year. His tenure also saw zero non-performing assets.
Since joining Ratnakar Bank, Ahuja says he has had to put aside his ego and work with a dogged determination to build an organisation that ranks among the top private sector banks in India. Assisting him is his head of strategy, Rajeev Ahuja, who is responsible for charting the future course of the bank. “The narrative we sell to investors is about the opportunity to participate in the financial services story,” Rajeev Ahuja says.