The Harvard-grad who wants her company to rank among India’s top five in asset management – meet Aditi Kothari Desai

Aditi Kothari Desai may be the daughter of Hemendra Kothari, one of the pioneers of investment banking in India, and the great-granddaughter of one of the founders of the BSE, but she climbed the corporate ladder step-by-step to truly earn her current position as director of DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund.

She comes with a formidable educational history, having studied at Harvard Business School and Wharton School.  She did her time at Wall Street as well, working in Merrill Lynch in New York, when they were in a joint venture with Desai’s father’s DSP Financial in India, where she worked in M&A and then in the fixed income sales team, before joining the mutual fund business in 2002. Rechristened as DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund after Merrill Lynch sold off its stake, the Kotharis continue to hold 60% of the firm. Despite the financial stake in the company, she has risen from being the head of channel in retail sales to now the executive vice-president and head of sales and marketing on merit alone.

“Ownership does not equal entitlement. Ideally, if I do get the chance, I would like to be on the board and have the most capable person run the business,” she says, humbly. And yet, her track record begs to differ – she launched the first off-shore India fund in 2005, and ever since she has taken charge of the sales and marketing division, assets under management have more than doubled from 37,378 crore in October 2015 to 85,305 crore as on October 2017. “I had a really good team to work with, I just had to make them feel energised, secure and motivate them. And I was pretty strict about holding them to their numbers, which had not been done before,” she says.

Desai admits that she never felt her gender prevented her from achieving more, but she adds that often men don’t like to be told what to do by women. Sometimes the aggression in the boardroom feels different coming from a woman than from a man, but she’s used to it now. In fact she’s pushing for more. “I want DSP BlackRock to be among the top five asset management companies in the country in the next five years.”

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