Business Today

ICICI's first among equals

It’s a demonstration of an institution’s bench strength that within days of two of their top honchos putting in their papers, their replacements were announced: Especially when the outgoers have nursed the businesses since inception. This is exactly what ICICI Group did recently.

     Print Edition: May 17, 2009

It’s a demonstration of an institution’s bench strength that within days of two of their top honchos putting in their papers, their replacements were announced: Especially when the outgoers have nursed the businesses since inception. This is exactly what ICICI Group did recently. When Renuka Ramnath, with two decades of experience at the Group, abruptly left the venture capital arm, young turk VISHAKHA MULYE, 40, promptly stepped into Ramnath’s shoes. Mulye, another career ICICI finance whiz who started off as management trainee, blazed through the ranks to become the Group CFO to now MD of ICICI Venture. “ICICI Venture has a very sound platform of business, domain knowledge and talented people. I would like to build on this strength,” she says.

As ICICI Group CFO and treasurer from 2005-07, Mulye raised nearly $7 billion in equity via two public offerings of $1.8 billion and $5 billion, and another $5 billion by way of bonds. That probably makes this chartered accountant the only woman CFO to have raised a staggering $12 billion in a matter of two years.

Ramnath, 47, now plans to start her own venture shortly. She took the venture’s corpus to a smashing $2 billion in private equity, buyouts, and real estate and mezzanine assets in the last 6-8 years. Before getting on to the venture subsidiary, Ramnath also spearheaded various business initiatives— right from merchant banking division, corporate finance and equities, structured finance business and e-Commerce.

Ramnath’s contemporary at ICICI’s life insurance arm, ICICI Prudential, SHIKHA SHARMA, 50, has pounced on the hot job of CEO & MD, Axis Bank, the third-largest private sector bank (see The Change Agent, page 120). Her successor is not yet announced; it’s all but certain that V. Vaidyanathan, Executive Director (Retail & Rural), ICICI Bank, will take over from her. Their exits come close on the heels of Chanda Kochhar donning the mantle of CEO & MD from May this year.

ICICI’s list of home-grown divas does not end here. It wasn’t long ago when Madhabi Puri-Buch took over as CEO & MD of ICICI Securities, one of the largest integrated securities firms in India. Prior to that, Madhabi was an Executive Director on the board of ICICI Bank. And last year, Kalpana Morparia moved out to join JP Morgan’s India operations. With ICICI’s women at the top making power moves all at the same time, watch out for the next rung of rising stars.

Goldman’s silver lining
For an investment banker in the midst of financial meltdown, Lloyd C. Blankfein, 54, Chairman & CEO, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., is full of beans. “I am generally optimistic about the economic picture,” says Blankfein. In Hyderabad on his second visit to the Indian School of Business (ISB), the Chairman of Goldman Sachs, who is also on the governing board of the school, perhaps, has good reasons to be optimistic, considering that this quarter his company reported profits. Is this the sign of a turnaround? “I accept it is a turnaround... but we are not out of the woods yet.” He cautions that though there are some hopeful signs, there are still difficult problems to deal with. Therefore, “it is still unlikely that this is the turn, but if this isn’t the turn, I assure you we are not that far from it.” Coming from Blankfein, that will be music to I-bankers’ ears.

Yahoo!’s find
Arun Tadanki, 38, IS SOMEthing of an Internet and job portal veteran, having spent nine years working at jobsahead. com and monster.com. Little surprise then, struggling web giant Yahoo! has zeroed in on him to fix its stuttering business in India. Yahoo! has been battered in recent times by Google’s marauding growth, Microsoft’s online emergence and the continued strength of local players such as Rediff. Tadanki, who’ll be Yahoo!’s MD for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, will have his hands full competing in the fast-growing Indian market and re-igniting growth. Although he confirmed his appointment, Tadanki, a part-time disc jockey, declined to comment on his plans to revive Yahoo!’s fortunes. Clearly, the man prefers to walk another talk.

Slumdog Millionaire in Election Fray
For E. Sarathbabu, 30, Founder and Ceo, Food King Catering Services, contesting as an independent from the elite South Chennai for an MP seat is a natural corollary to a belief that he must empower the youth in India in every way. “I want the youth, who represent 65 per cent of our population, to realise that though politics is dirty, this is still our India.” Sarathbabu grew up in a slum, helping his mother eke out a living selling idlis, to subsequently graduate out of BITS Pilani and IIM-Ahmedabad and then set up a lowcost but, quality and volume-driven food business in 2006. His first order was to supply 75 teas and 25 coffees and this has grown to providing 15,000 meals a day with a staff of 200. His long-term goal is to eradicate hunger and unemployment. No doubt the MBA degree is helping, but so is the slumdog millionaire appeal!

— Contributed by Anand Adhikari, E. Kumar Sharma, Nitya Varadarajan and Rahul Sachitanand

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