30th May 2024

Better business. Better community

Business Industry and Financial

For this man, investment banking is like Test cricket

As a lover of the longer format of the game, financial entrepreneur Venkat Subramanyam loved to listen to Tony Cozier and Christopher Martin-Jenkins of BBC’s Test Match Special. For almost a decade, his ambition was to be a cricket broadcaster and journalist. “I made it to the regional panel of cricket commentators covering the Ranji Trophy Final and Irani Trophy in 1988,” he says.“I was almost set for this career when I got swayed by the stock market.” He moved into merchant banking in the early 1990s. “In 1993 I stumbled upon venture capital when it was still in its infancy in India and it has been part of my life ever since,” he says.
But cricket has stayed with him. “Cricket, especially Test cricket, and investment banking have a lot in common. So I didn’t have to look anywhere else for inspiration,” he says. How are the two similar? “Both are battles of attrition, a test of patience and perseverance, with twists and turns,” he says. “There are as many “glorious uncertainties” in investment banking as there are in cricket. A batsman has to be a good judge of which balls to play and which to leave; an investment banker has to be a good judge of what deals to pick and what to pass.”
Subramanyam should know. A serial entrepreneur, his last venture – Veda Corp – has survived two decades in the cut and thrust of deal making and continues to thrive. “We have built a national investment banking firm out of Chennai without a Mumbai presence,” he says. “Not only do we have clients from the south, several leading companies from the west and the north have chosen us over our Mumbai peers.”
In these 20 years Veda Corp saw a lot of change. His co-founder stepped out and two directors quit over time. Tamil Nadu’s deal climate also changed dramatically. “Deal sizes and volumes have increased significantly over the years as companies and entrepreneurs are willing to look at dilution, divestment, acquisitions with a more open mind,” he says. On the flip side, things have become more complex and time consuming.
The good news: This change is what led to Veda Corp 2.0. When his co-founders left, he leaned on the “second line of leadership that was hungry for growth and eager to scale”. This team “seized the opportunity and more than filled the void”, he says. “Together with five of them I have rebuilt the firm with a new mission and fresh vigour.”
The transformation started from 2018 with the goal of positioning Veda as the banker of choice for family businesses and first-gen entrepreneurs. “We are proud that for three consecutive years we have been ranked among the top five investment banks in the country as per Venture Intelligence league tables,” he says. “We have achieved this through developing a pan-India deal footprint, multi-sectoral approach, larger deal sizes and very high strike rates,” he adds. In the corner office, “nurturing, empowerment and co-ownership” are the key areas he focussed on.
Looking back, he sees a pattern in what he went through in his career as a CEO. “Every crisis also presents an opportunity and we were focused on seizing the opportunity without disrespecting the challenges,” he says. Indeed, like the Indian cricket team of the 1970s, Subramanyam believes his second innings has been better than the first. Adapting to changing times and staying ahead of the curve are critical to success in my field, he says. “There is more method to my intuition now.” And that’s the ideal mantra for a long stint at the crease.