Business Today

They are playing her song

Dealing with entrepreneurially-driven clients is a refreshing change, and Aisha De Sequeira is taking in every moment of it.

Anusha Subramanian | Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

In early 2007, Aisha De Sequeira was called in by her seniors at Morgan Stanley on Wall Street and asked: "Would you like to move closer home?" For the 41-year-old, who was born and brought up in Goa, the offer was alluring; but there was reason to be apprehensive, too. "At that time many (from New York) were being moved to Hong Kong as there was a lot of activity in M&A there. I was clear I was not interested in going to Hong Kong. But, if the opportunity was right, I was okay with going to India," explains De Sequeira.

The opportunity was right. In February 2007, Nimesh Kampani's JM Financial announced that it was ending its joint venture with Morgan Stanley in India. "By November 2007, I was in India as head of investment banking for Morgan Stanley. It all happened very quickly," adds De Sequeira.

Aisha De Sequeira
MD & Head, Investment Banking, Morgan Stanley

Previous employer Morgan Stanley, New York

Why I came back Not only because of growth opportunities but to restore the connection with India and have a sense of belonging

If I was not in India I would be in the US

High point in India Becoming one of the top investment banks in India after building it from scratch; personally the high point was having my baby in India

Low point in India Most of 2008 was a tough year for me because I was new to the Indian market and there was very little opportunity to prove oneself

After completing her engineering from the Goa Engineering College, De Sequiera left for the United States to do her management studies at the Yale Business School in 1993. Thereafter, began a 13-year ride with Morgan Stanley in New York. In the summer of 1994 De Sequeira joined as an intern in the investment banking division. By 1995, when she graduated from Yale, she was an associate. A year later, she moved into the M&A group. The pace had begun to quicken. "I was dealing with CEOs of large companies at a very young age. I was fortunate to be in the M&A team at a very early stage of my career," says De Sequeira.

De Sequeira got a chance to execute a range of financial advisory assignments, including cross-border, mergers, buy side, sell side and restructuring mandates. By early 2000 De Sequeira started working with big names in consumer goods such as Unilever and PepsiCo. That was the first time she got a chance to interact with the emerging market - and Indian - operations of these companies. "Till then I had absolutely no exposure to Indian or Asian businesses," says De Sequeira, who made a couple of trips to India four years ago.

Perhaps that was the time De Sequeira sensed the vibrancy in developing markets such as India, which might have later convinced her that moving to India was the right decision. Her husband Roy De Souza made the task to return easier, as his advertising technology firm Zedo has operations in the country.

The return to India proved to be a baptism of fire. By early 2008, the stock markets tumbled as the world woke up to a credit crisis of mammoth proportions. De Sequeira was in a virtually alien market, still trying to come to grips with it both on the professional and personal front. Today, she is more self-assured. "I like the entrepreneurial spirit and environment here. There are so many opportunities for growth in so many different areas and companies are doing exciting things in order to capture that," she points out.

De Sequeira is glad to be in India for the vibrancy of its market, for the fast pace of decision making - as well as for some simple pleasures of life like walking across the road to gulp down some paani puris. She says she is here to stay, and it is hard to disagree.

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