What impresses organizations about professional leaders is the fresh perspective they bring with an understanding of the market forces. A clear and straightforward leader is always open to new ideas, exploring new avenues, and keeping risk and exposure in mind. Enduring such a meticulous approach toward business is one such efficient and effective leader, Manju Mastakar. Manju is very holistic in her approach, helping with her heavily loaded financial proficiency at Armstrong Capital & Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. She leads and mentors the team by being the Managing Director making Armstrong and the clients drive beyond their potential.
Constructing the Destiny
Manju started working very early in her life and took up an internship at a CA firm, where she was given the opportunity to do audits of stock brokers & stock traders. That is how she got introduced to the stock markets.
- In early 2000 the leader worked with reputed stock brokers as a dealer and advisor, recommending stocks to HNI clients.
- In 2007 she moved to Bangalore from Mumbai and worked with a multinational bank and a wealth management firm. Due to the recession followed by the sub-prime crisis in late 2008, she was laid off and decided to start independently.
- In 2010 she met up with an investment banker who gave her the idea that he would fund her and that she should start more professionally. She had 10 yrs of corporate experience working at various levels in a Securities firm but entrepreneurship on the initial day was different. It was all about – doing it yourself and at the minimum cost.
- Later in 2014, the organization grew rapidly; the team had a good client base, and she had more employees to delegate work. After that, she never looked back; all the stories of hardship that she went through summed up into one word called struggle.
Solving Complex Financial Problems
In the initial stages of Manju’s entrepreneurial journey, she faced various challenges and adversities. She had 10+ yrs of corporate experience and managed an Investment portfolio HNI & CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
- Funding – Manju got her seed capital quickly, but it was pretty tough when she wanted to raise the growth capital. Investors would ask how you are different? There are so many other people doing the same thing as you are doing; why you? She had to look for long-term investors who were willing to invest in her firm as a part of their retirement planning. She had to raise a lower amount from more investors.
- Multitasking – Manju had only one employee in the first year of business. She had to do marketing, sales, client meetings, after-sales services, upload files in the software, almost everything, and even write the marketing material’s content—many of these tasks she did for the first time and acquired skills over a while.
- Ploughing Back the Profits – Since the business was all driven by people, Manju had to keep investing in resources and technology upgrades to aid the toplined growth. To achieve the scalability investing in business was a must, which also meant that the profits were lower, and she had a tight budget for bonuses and increments.
Driving Financial Independence
There was always a gender inequality; very few ladies wanted to make a career in the Capital markets. When Manju started her career in 1997, the dealing room was male-dominated, and they would converse in a regional language full of expletives and foul language. This would make the job even more difficult because a fresher expects much motivation at the entry level.
She had to do much research before recommending – doing research was not easy, especially in the pre-Google era, where information was not so over the internet. She had to go to the library, look for books / Magazines/ shareholder reports, read through them, make notes and then write a research report. Her colleagues, boss, and clients appreciated these reports. For 2-3 years, her seniors who had 10+ yrs of work experience would ask her for views and recommendations and act on them.
Manju says, “Continuous research, hours of hard work, and customer focus have been the key attributes that have helped me come a long way.”
Building Financial Investment Plans
Armstrong Capital & Financial Services is financial planning and Investment Management company. Every relationship in Armstrong Capital starts with a Financial Plan. Before the company advises, it tries and understands all the client’s financial commitments in the near and far future. All the client’s investments bucket that into respective goals. Show them a complete picture of how the financials will look ten years from now and what the annuity will be by the time he retires. This complete end-to-end financial planning is what it does at Armstrong. The core competency is that the organization works with much integrity and keeps in mind that it needs to build long-term relationships.
Passionate about Nurturing Relationships
Armstrong’s people are their biggest asset. It nurtures curiosity, and every individual has a right to ask the question, WHY? To succeed in an increasingly complex business world, entrepreneurs need the talents of everyone in the organization. The team believes in the abilities of others and lets them grow and perform at their best. The organization doesn’t overemphasize rules; it considers fostering a culture that shows belief in the ability of the individual to take the right action.
Mentoring to Evolve and Transform
Appreciation is a powerful motivator. The old kick-on-the-butt style may not work today.
Being a mentor to others, she proceeds, “Initially invest in people, then in the process, then infrastructure and finally build a culture which has a balance of being competitive and accommodative. There is one principle that I tell my people – we don’t create returns, markets create returns, we set in the discipline to save, and we manage the risk, and that’s the magic behind building a sound portfolio.
We want our managers to become good teachers, and good mentors spend more time understanding their problems, explaining to them, and nurturing their curiosity.”