Intrepid entrepreneur's second innings keeps entrepreneurial dreams alive

A modest beginning, a lower middle-class background and financial struggles have not stopped the rise of this financial wizard: R Sridhar joined IndoStar Capital Finance as the Executive Vice Chairman-CEO.
Intrepid entrepreneur's second innings keeps entrepreneurial dreams alive
R Sridhar

Chennai

This marks his second innings as an entrepreneur, after almost threedecade-long successful stint at the Rs 76,000 crore Shriram Group, started by R Thyagarajan (RT). Between 2005 and 2010, as a CEO, Sridhar took the market cap of group company Shriram Finance from Rs 500 crore to a whopping Rs 20,000 crore. 
Excerpts from an interview with DTNext: 
Early years 
During his graduation, Sridhar started earning while learning, to support his large family. He worked at different places, including a part-time assignment at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (SKGS). Back then, in 1978, he helped the then Secretary R Yagnaraman in accounting. To supplement his income, Sridhar was also attached to another CA as a typist. Apart from this, he worked at a sea food exports firm based in Madhavaram, at a salary of Rs 500. He had to shuttle long distances to cover multiple assignments. At this juncture, Yagnaraman’s son urged him to give up employment and pursue CA instead, offering him a stipend of Rs 400. Then, in 1983, RT took over as the SKGS treasurer, a position he holds till date, while Sridhar rose to become a joint secretary there.
Providential meeting with mentor 
This was the year, when RT asked him to join Shriram Chit Fund. Sridhar expressed his reservations about the chit business, but RT gave the assurance of shifting him in a year to truck financing. “I was in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, for a year and by then, Shriram had started expanding outside south to Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and Pune. RT asked if “I would like to move to Mumbai. I didn’t think for a second. That time I got married and my parents were with me. I took a quick decision seeing opportunity is coming my way and that I should make the best of it. I joined Shriram at a salary of Rs 1500 and got 2500 in 1986 when I moved to Mumbai as a branch manager at Nariman Point. From there, RT grew the company and he gave us the feeling of owner. The ownership trust was also set up,” says Sridhar.
Leadership role 
“We built and went through all sorts of problems, be it the market or the regulator. From 1998-2004, after a big struggle, RT came out of all the problems. We built a partnership with Citicorp (Citibank put equity) and then it took off. In 2000, I became MD, Shriram Transport, which had a Rs 20 cr market cap. In 2005 – my first and the most difficult period, market cap went to Rs 500 cr. ChrysCapital invested Rs 100 crore for a 20 pc stake. They put a condition that all the NBFCs should be merged into one. So, all the companies were merged into Shriram Transport, for which I was made the CEO by RT. From 2005 to 2010, I took the market cap to Rs 20,000 crore. The assets from Rs 4,000 crore surged to Rs 20,000 crore. The going was fantastic. In 2012, I relinquished the position and moved to the group’s headquarters and then to TPG for some time. Then, six months ago, I joined IndoStar Capital Finance.” 
Aspirations 
Selling portfolio of Rs 100 cr for Citibank, the first time at a huge rate for second-hand truck purchase gave me the chance to hold the biggest cheque (Rs 40 to 50 crore).“I always had very high aspirations. People advocate contentment, which, means feeling happy with what you have but, in my opinion, contentment is not about curtailing aspiration. I have taken an entrepreneurial decision now. Earlier too, at Shriram, my basic entrepreneurial instinct was nurtured by RT. This is my second innings, an opportunity to be with a good franchise where the responsibility is to deliver prosperity to shareholders, employees and customers. 
Hobbies 
I have been a carnatic buff right from young age. I have one of the highest collections – archives in music with 30,000 hours of music indexed in high quality. My all-time favourite is Semma ngudi Srinivas, DK Jayaraman and Lalgudi in instruments.

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