Having spent a considerable amount of time at the helm of affairs at Bajaj Capital, Anil Chopra, Group CEO and Director of Bajaj Capital is responsible for driving growth at the diversified financial services firm. He joined the company in 1984 and has played a crucial role in expanding the branch network of Bajaj Capital pan-India. He is credited for helping create a financially literate society and making Bajaj Capital a respected retail brand. Excerpts from an interview:
B&E: What Bajaj Capital projects are you personally excited about?
Anil Chopra (AC): There are quite a few projects at Bajaj Capital about which I am truly excited. Firstly, we are soon going to launch fee-only advisory services for the investor community of India. According to the new investment advisory guidelines which were introduced recently, there can be one of two ways of compensating a financial intermediary now – either by the traditional way of commissions paid by the product providers, or by fees paid by the client. Moreover, only those entities that are remunerated by clients in the form of fees will be able to call themselves investment advisors or financial planners. Bajaj Capital has traditionally been a financial products distributor. However, after the introduction of these guidelines, we will be launching fee-only advisory services through a separate entity, because we have realised that there is a growing percentage of clients who prefer this mode of receiving advice, i.e., by paying a fee, since they have realised that this move would benefit them the most. Secondly, I am also excited about using technology extensively for the process of product distribution. We are already in the process of creating an online platform through which our clients would easily be able to transact, invest, redeem or shift their investments between mutual funds, health insurance, term plan, etc. This platform is expected to get operational by June this year. We are also collecting related information from different sources like various trade bodies, BSE MF Star platform, etc. Thus, we are evaluating various options and will soon finalise our technology partner too. We strongly feel that this medium would be extremely useful, not only for our clients, but also for our advisors and our team. Instead of visiting our branch office now, the clients can easily do their transactions sitting at home. Thus, these are the two important projects about which I am excited.
B&E: What strategic issues are you working to resolve?
AC: We are currently working to improve upon our business model, which is already client-centric, so that we work for the interest of our clients. This would require making changes at our end in all policies, including the HR-related also. Instead of revenues, we would now be focusing on incentivising our team members based on how many clients they have acquired, how many are delighted by getting their services and by how many needs have been fulfilled. In this way, we feel that we would be able to attract many new clients and even our existing clientele will be happy. This will generate many new references for us. We will get this matter straightened out, hopefully, in the next 3-6 months.
B&E: Can you highlight your expansion plans in India?
AC: We have strong expansion plans in terms of increasing our reach across the nation. We are currently present in 70 cities across the country and our aim is to increase our presence to around 120 cities. Moreover, from 3 lac clients that we currently have, we plan to increase the number to 1 million. We intend to achieve this by adopting the following ways: (a) Opening more branches across metropolitan cities, and Tier 2 & Tier 3 towns; (b) Adding more advisors in the current branches. Thus, we aim to achieve the target of 500 branches, 5,000 advisors and 1 million clients in the next 3-4 years.
B&E: What challenges have you faced in the past couple of years?
AC: One of the key challenges that we have been facing is the constantly changing industry regulations. As a result, we are required to quickly understand the changes and also change our business model accordingly. For example, the recent announcement of changes in the advisory guidelines required that a change be brought in our business model too. Also, when entry load in mutual funds was removed in 2009, we had to make changes in our own business model and add other products to meet the needs of the clients like life insurance, real estate solutions, etc. Moreover, in case of life insurance, the features of products have been changing very often. Due to this, we not only need to understand the changes promptly, but also give training to our teams before they go to the clients to educate them about how the new products are better than the earlier products. Thus, re-training our team after every regulatory change has been a very big challenge. Another key challenge that we have been facing is to attract new talent from the industry.
B&E: What are your expectations from the government in 2014-15?
AC: Of course, we are clearly expecting that the government should frame policies which encourage the Indian citizens to divert more of their savings into financial instruments like mutual funds, life insurance, etc. We are also expecting the government to give more incentives in terms of tax benefits to investor in these financial instruments.
B&E: Social media has become crucial today. How have you decided to harness this new age offering?
AC: Yes, I agree that social media is undoubtedly playing a major role in the current scenario. In times to come, this will play a much bigger role, whether it involves communicating with our clients, listening to their opinions or acquiring new clients altogether. We are definitely integrating social media into our marketing strategies through various platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, or even other social media apps which may come up. We are also planning to launch our own business-oriented applications to enable our clients to stay in touch with us on a real time basis. We also intend to acquire more young clients, as they are more in a position to achieve their lifetime goals by starting to save early, as they have a longer time horizon with them. To catch them young, social media is an important platform.
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