Anita and Datta Kanbargi started a small advertising agency in 1998 which has now turned into a full-fledged financial advisory office. The husband-wife duo today caters to more than 1,000 retail clients in Belgaum. We spoke to Anita and Datta to find out on what inspired them to become financial advisers and what has helped them become one of the well-known faces in the financial advisory community in Belgaum.
After graduating in commerce in 1986, Datta joined a chartered accountant firm. After a short stint, he joined a private company as a cashier-cum accountant. Because of his dedication and hard work he was promoted to Deputy Manager – Finance.
His wife Anita also worked in various organizations from 1989 in administration and accounts departments. A diploma holder in Commercial Practice, Anita wanted to do something on her own. So in 1998, she started an agency which dealt in advertising, events and human resource. In 2000, her husband Datta also joined the agency. To expand their services, they started dealing in postal savings, life insurance, income tax return filing and mobile recharge, etc.
When asked what inspired them to get into Mutual Fund advisory, Datta says, “Becoming financial planners was never on the cards. There was intense competition in the advertising space. So we decided to use our domain experience and help people with their finances. We began this journey by selling bonds and filing tax returns. Gradually, we expanded our business as an industry veteran helped us understand the concept of mutual funds and advised us to start selling mutual funds. After clearing the AMFI exam, we were confident enough to sell MFs.”
When they started out as mutual fund distributors, a lot of investors who were disappointed after investing in assured return products sought their help. “The aggrieved investors felt frustrated especially as there was no one to address their grievances or advise them on the future course of action. We started guiding these investors,” recalls Datta.
The right guidance given to these investors helped them grow their business.
Growing investor base
In a city like Belgaum where financial literacy was very low, Anita and Datta had to face a lot of trouble to acquire new clients. “When we started dealing in mutual funds, we knew the journey was difficult. As people were not familiar with mutual funds, investor awareness became our priority. We chalked out a plan and started our marketing campaigns. We visited schools, colleges, banks, exhibitions as well as army and air-force bases to educate people about mutual funds and the benefits of financial planning,” says Anita.
Since people had not experienced mutual funds and volatility, Anita and Datta introduced their investors to SIPs. “We have always believed that SIPs encourages the habit of investing. In fact, our slogan also says, ‘Invest Systematically, Grow Steadily.’”
Recalling their earlier days, Anita and Datta say that they did not have the convenience of technology when they started MF distribution. “Back then, ECS (Electronic Clearing System) was not available, so we had to collect post-dated cheques from our clients and write to them to continue with their investments once the cheques got over. The level of hard work and perseverance that we have put in has now helped us to maintain an active SIP book of Rs. 50 lakh a month. This is a great achievement for us in a small city like Belgaum.”
When asked what has helped them add new customers, Datta humbly answers, “In the initial days, we had been helping some of our old clients with their investments. So these happy customers referred us to their family and acquaintances and that is how we became more popular in the city.”
Besides referrals, conducing investor awareness programs (IAPs) has helped them grow their business. “We have been conducting a lot of IAPs to popularise mutual funds as people only knew traditional avenues of savings. Though we didn’t see results immediately our efforts finally paid off as gradually people started calling us to know more about mutual funds,” says Anita.
Getting to know customers
With changing times, Anita and Datta are riding the latest trends in technology to engage with clients. Anita says they are active on social media and regularly update clients on important events, new products on Whatsapp and mailers to stay in touch with their clients. “Clients value us for the service we provide. We spend a lot of time with our clients in office to educate them as well as to clear their doubts about investments.”
They make sure that they are in touch with them, especially during bad times. Talking about how they win their clients trust, Anita says, “Investor communication has to be simple. You have to speak their language. We spend a lot of time with our clients in office, especially during bad times, to answer their queries and educate them. This way our investors know that we don’t reach out to them only in good times. Thus, our clients are happy and satisfied with our services and stay connected with us.”
They catering to more than 1,000 retail clients and manage an AUA of Rs. 88 crore in mutual funds.
Shift in investor behaviour
Over the years, they feel that people have now started understanding the importance of mutual funds and how they are beneficial over long term. They have observed a rise in the number of investors shifting from postal savings and bank deposits to mutual funds. “Some of our old clients who only preferred investing in traditional safe assets are now interested to learn more about MFs,” says Datta.
Also, Datta says that a lot of youngsters have now started investing in mutual funds.
To win client trust, they put their money where their mouth is. “The logic is simple - practice what you preach. Also, to acquire new clients, it becomes easy for us to show our portfolio and build trust,” says Datta.
To expand their business further, here are the top two things Anita and Datta feel that will help them grow:
· Technology: They are planning to buy new software to analyse the risk profile of clients. They are also evaluating online platforms which will help their investors get a seamless transaction experience.
· IAPs: They plan to continue and in fact increase their IAP activities as they believe that the penetration of mutual funds is very low in Belgaum.
Anita and Datta’s success story is one of the finest examples of humility, hard work and determination. Their willingness to take risk and learn continuously has made them one of the trusted financial advisers in Belgaum.