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The CIO Today
Trusted By
Manju Mastakar

Manju Mastakar

 

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard, and building a personality beyond its normal limitations. Ms. Manju Mastakar is an accomplished finance maven passionate about building investment plans and driving financial independence.

 

1.    Kindly brief us about the outset story of your career.

Over the course of my 22 years in the industry, I have acquired extensive knowledge, demonstrated diligent client commitment, and received several awards and recognitions.

Let me provide a little background on my success story. I developed the tenacity and depth of financial knowledge that are still my greatest assets today while working as an intern for a CA in Dalal Street in early 2000. My ascent up the corporate ladder from Assistant Accountant, Dealer, Account Manager, and Portfolio Manager to Regional Manager was a remarkable journey based on learning. My career in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, was abruptly curbed when I had to move to Bangalore, the IT capital of India in 2007. The tipping point to explore entrepreneurship for me was job loss in the crisis of 2008. Possessing good multitasking skills with extensive financial subject experience, I decided to strike out on my own with freelancing. Luckily for me, I came across an angel investor who funded my initiative, allowing me to take the entrepreneurial venture to a professional and larger scale. In 2010, I founded Bangalore-based Armstrong Capital & Financial Services Pvt. Ltd., an investment solution firm that offers a complete spectrum of wealth management services to its clients, was founded in 2010 and currently serves more than 1000 satisfied clients.

The flagship product offered by the company is a Goal-based financial plan. At Armstrong Capital, every relationship starts with a Financial Plan to understand all the investments done in the past, and bucket that into life goals. The firm offers a systematic approach to financial planning so that all financial goals can be identified and achieved. Each client is serviced by Personal Investment Adviser along with a Service Manager backed by in-house research and technology platform.

Armstrong Capital’s bespoke services are reinforced by excellent execution, a robust investment policy framework, and a rigorous due diligence process with a strong emphasis on picking future winners.

2.    As a successful leader, which three personal qualities do you believe contributed most to your success?

As a successful leader, I believe that three personal qualities that have contributed most to my success are circumstances, perseverance, and determination. However, circumstances play the most important role, as they need to be unfavourable for the other two qualities to come to the fore. In my case, the situation and circumstances were unfavourable due to the subprime crisis, which resulted in me losing my job. Moreover, the global financial crisis had adversely affected the wealth management industry, leaving no scope for job opportunities. Consequently, I was compelled to start my own venture. Initially, I worked alone from my home office, and it required a lot of perseverance to keep going. As time passed, I made more investments in the business, and that is when determination came into play to fight adversities.

3.    What is your definition of success?

In my opinion, success is not just an individual achievement, but rather a team effort. When each employee performs well, the organization as a whole thrives and reaps rewards in terms of financial gains and industry recognition. It’s important to understand that success is not a destination, but rather an ongoing journey with its ups and downs. However, the most successful individuals are those with an unquenchable thirst for success and an unwavering drive to achieve their goals.

4. What has been the toughest decision you took?

I started my career in the stock markets and when I moved to Bangalore, I continued to offer services in that domain, advising clients on buying stocks and building derivative positions. However, after a few years, I realized that there was not much risk appetite among the salaried class in Bangalore for this asset class as compared to Mumbai. Consequently, I had to make the difficult decision of shutting down that service, as it had caused losses for our customers. It was a tough call, one of the toughest decisions I had to make was related to a product that had been contributing significantly to our revenue, but I believed it was the right decision.

5. Do you have a mantra that you live by?

Certainly, I have a personal philosophy that has guided me throughout my career. My mantra is to prioritize survival over growth, especially during the initial stages of a business venture. I have noticed that many entrepreneurs tend to focus too much on expanding quickly and making significant investments, without considering the cash flow and potential risks involved. Therefore, my advice is to concentrate on keeping expenses within the revenue margin during the first three years, to remain afloat and ensure long-term success. Only when the revenue stabilizes and the product gains acceptance, one should focus on expanding the team and investing in growth. I believe that it is not the noise made during the launch but the ability to sail through the challenges silently that makes the difference. Additionally, I think that while IQ is necessary to start a business, Emotional Quotient (EQ) is crucial to scale it effectively.

6. Many entrepreneurs quit between 1-3 years. What do you think are the primary reasons?

Entrepreneurs often face challenges in the initial years of their business and may give up on their dream. While pitching for funding may seem easy, the real test starts once the business is up and running. In my opinion, the most important factor that contributes to success is intellectual honesty. It’s important to ask tough questions, not only to impress others but also to be honest with yourself about revenue predictability, product acceptability, and feedback from customers. It’s crucial to avoid getting carried away by the idea of solving bigger problems and instead focus on running the organization with frugality, making room for mistakes, and learning from them. Most importantly, entrepreneurs need a magical combination of courage and genius to survive and thrive in this highly competitive market.

7. What is your stance on implementing innovative technologies?

My belief is that innovation drives improvement, and in the business world, there are three key areas where innovation can have a significant impact. The first is product innovation, where we constantly strive to enhance and refine our offerings. We make it a point to come up with innovative financial plans every 18-20 months to stay ahead of the curve. The second area is sales innovation, where we explore different ways of reaching and engaging with our customers, and come up with creative marketing strategies to stand out in a crowded marketplace. The third area is process innovation, where we leverage analytics and automation to streamline our operations and reduce execution times. At our organization, we prioritize innovation in these three areas each day and are always seeking new ways to improve our products, sales, and processes.

8. When you build a team what are the most important things that you look at?

When building a team, I prioritize certain characteristics in potential hires. Firstly, ambition is key, as I believe that the drive to succeed is more important than a person’s educational or professional background. Additionally, I look for individuals who possess a willingness to learn and adapt to new situations, as well as those who exhibit empathy, decency, and strong moral values. Being a team player is also crucial, as individuals who prioritize their own success over that of the team often hinder progress. Finally, I value loyalty. Loyalty is not just about staying with the company indefinitely, but rather about being dedicated to achieving our common goals while working together.