January 23, 2020
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Uday Kotak, Kotak Group

Executives raise a toast to technologies that trim the wage bill, such as robots. Kotak clearly doesn’t believe in ruthless automation.

Uday Kotak, Kotak Group
Photograph by Getty Images
Uday Kotak, Kotak Group
  • 46,500: Total employees in the Kotak Group


Uday Kotak is a banker who banks on people, a point that comes out amply through his meteoric career. Take a handful of his recent tweets, although he doesn’t tweet as impulsively as Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson, for instance, does. Take this one: “Biggest challenge for world and India is new jobs. Digital, AI, robots, etc reduce jobs as we know them. Budget should incentivise new jobs.” Executives and corporations will always raise a toast to technologies that can trim the wage bill, such as robots. Kotak is worried.

He clearly doesn’t believe in ruthless automation, given the Indian context where growth has been jobless. Or this: “When nations dominate their people, people have no choice. When supe­r­­powers bully nations, taste of own medicine? Either ways, people suffer.”

What makes the investment banker see people as the key has to probably do with how his story began, when as a 26-year old in 1985, Kotak started Kotak Capital Management Finance Ltd, which later became Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd.

One of the reasons why the India story took a long time to take off was the lack of access to credit. The RBI opened up the banking sector to private players in 1993. It unleashed pent-up consumption, borrowing by firms and spawned a consumer revolution. ATM machines sprang up. On March 22, 2003, Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd. became the first non-banking financial company in India to become a full bank. Kotak’s focus on people perhaps is conditioned by the early days of his financial firm, which focused on small lending to middle-class customers.

Goldman Sachs, the investment banking beast, was watching. When they wanted a lowdown on the Indian financial market, Sachs honchos chose to host a talk by Kotak. The two firms eventually tied up. They decided to wrap up the joint venture in 2006, when Kotak Mahindra Bank entered into an agreement to purchase the 25 per cent stake Goldman Sachs (Mauritius) LLC held in two Kotak subsidiaries—Kotak Mahindra Capital Company and Kotak Securities—for an aggregate consideration of Rs 333 crore.

The Kotak Mahindra Group, which began as a first-generation financial enterprise, has a net worth of Rs 33,361 crore. It employs 46,500 people and is reputed to be one of the most efficient banks in India.

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