Manju Mastakar: Making a Difference in the Financial Management Space Dynamically.

Manju Mastakar
Manju Mastakar

Manju Mastakar: Making a Difference in the Financial Management Space Dynamically.

An affinity for a career with immensely challenging job content and excellent growth opportunities has ensured Manju’s consistent performance in the highly demanding field of equity markets along with advising individuals and institutions.

From working as a stock advisor in a brokerage firm in Mumbai, Manju Mastakar moved to Bangalore and started working as a wealth manager. She was very happy with a nice corporate job but in 2008 the subprime crises she lost her job and that is when she decided to start on her own. Manju started working from home and meeting clients and advising on investments. Initially it was quite challenging for her because suddenly from a very busy office life she was trapped in a home environment and still had to work with the same dedication. (In today’s scenario it’s called work from home)

Initially Manju thought this as a stop gap arrangement and then when the financial markets would stabilise she would get back into the corporate life once again but that never happened.

First Manju established herself as a freelancer, and she was not shy about it at all. Manju told this to whomever she met that she did not have an office and that she worked from home. Manju was almost 8-9 months into the entrepreneurship journey and had some cash flow. She then took up a workstation in a business centre. After few more months she hired her first employee who in the past worked as a secretary.

Manju was on her own and as she was all alone. It was very important for her to delegate non-productive things slowly. As business grew, Manju started hiring people 1 by 1. In a year she would only add 1-2 resources. Manju worked on a very lean structure so that she could survive through the first 2 years of the entrepreneurial journey.

There goes a lot more into what went down in Manju’s journey of being an entrepreneur. Let’s figure out what it looked like through the below given excerpts from the interview:

Who inspires you to wake up every day and keep making a difference in the industry?

Our basic job is about managing other people’s money which itself is a huge responsibility. Any changes in the economic and political scenario calls for a quick decision making. I believe people who make a move first in crisis and uncertainty win over the confidence of their customers. This keeps me on my toes as I treasure the relationships that I manage.

As the Key Executive Personality of company, what challenges have you faced while running the business?

As any start up would face we also faced a lot of challenges. At the face of it we didn’t seem to offer anything different, people said, “Ohh I already have a banker or a wealth manager or an insurance agent who gives me advice.” But they never understood what a financial advisor is. Someone who would look at the entire picture of past investments, loans, insurances, and commitments. The bigger challenge was brand name. We had to compete with foreign banks. Over a period, customers realized that smaller brands offer more value. Multitasking was a challenge since we were a small company with very few employees in 2013-14 everyone had to multitask, we had made a rule that everyone in the organization should be able to take over 2 roles.

Brief us about the operations of your organization its mission, vision, and core values.

Armstrong Capital and Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. offers services in form of financial planning and Investment Advisory. We analyse the client’s past investments, understand their liabilities, discuss with them about what we think. Take a judgmental call on their risk appetite and then offer them solutions. We call it the execution plan, then we again discuss it with the customers, involving them in the decision-making process of choosing the right mutual fund.

The basic motive behind starting Armstrong and continuing it was that the way wealth management was dealt in the back end was not very encouraging. All the organizations were focused in getting the big buck quickly, selling insurances, selling structured products and I felt it was necessary to build up the relationship, understand the needs and then offer a solution. We have one plan and one perspective throughout the wealth creation journey.

Till today Armstrong does not sell products. We identify requirements and sell solutions. Our core competency is that we work with a lot of integrity and keep in mind that we need to build a long-term relationship.

How has the current pandemic affected your business and what steps have you taken to safeguard your employees while catering to your clients? What creative ways have you employed to make the work environment of company vibrant?

I believe – Performance comes out of Passion and not Pressure. An employee must first like what he does only then he can excel in it.

Well, recruitment is the most challenging part of business; we basically look at hiring interns and then absorbing them as employees. Primarily, I look for character and values in a person as this profession is about earning trust of the customers. Then I look for genuine interest of following the stock markers and economy.

This profession itself offers new challenges everyday it’s all about understanding our clients spending habits, investments attitude, advising them correcting them, handholding them, every case is different this itself adds a lot of interest in the job. We also spend a lot of time on training them, giving the first hand exposure of attending fund manager meets, deciding the investment composition and taking a lot of investment related decision on their own.

According to you, what are the essentials of being an inspiring business leader or business professional?

The most important quality of a business leader is to make the right decisions. Decision making requires three things, data, quick analysis and intuition a company preferably needs to have only one decision maker to become very successful – because institutions can neither be shared nor justified.

What would you like to share with the young generation of entrepreneurs who are looking to step foot in a leadership role in their respective businesses?

What is very important is to strategise and prioritise, in the very beginning of the entrepreneurial journey. First focus on to create products or services that are based on the needs of customers. Hire people who are ready to work for you, do not be choosy the best talent may not choose to work for you. Choose average talent and spend a lot of time on training them. Focus more on customer generation rather than fund raising, because revenue from customers will help you survive. Start small and remain lean till you have good and robust cashflows. Avoid taking loans to run a startup.

I believe – It is the gut feeling that make a great leader differentiate between perseverance and need for change in strategy.

In terms of future growth, where do you see yourself and your company? What does innovation mean to you? How is it going to affect the world in coming days and how is it making a difference now in the current industry scenario of the manufacturing sector?

Adopting to technology is much easier than adopting to a change in the business model.

Innovation is not only about technology but it’s about creating innovative ways for customers to evaluate their investments.

We have been focusing on continuous innovation, we keep innovating and adding new ideas to the Investment plan, continuously researching, and finding out new investment ideas have helped in getting ahead of the curve.

We also focus more on acquiring first time investors, handholding them through the entire process and setting up the discipline for them to invest regularly has been the key reason for our success.

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