Advisor Speak 17th April 2014
2 smart decisions and 2 not-so-smart ones
Abhenav Khettry, Vyana Wealth, Kolkata

imgbd Abhenav Khettry and his firm Vyana Wealth represent one of the best new success stories in the IFA space in recent times, picking up the 2013 Wealth Forum Emerging Advisor Award as testimony of his splendid efforts. But, even the best make mistakes and it takes tremendous courage to acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and use these learnings to scale newer heights. We learn not only from the smart decisions of successful advisors, but also from the not-so-smart decisions they made, provided they are willing to candidly share these for everybody's benefit. It is a tribute to this young advisor's maturity that he readily agreed to share his perspectives on a tough question we posed him. We asked him to look back at the 5 great years of Vyana Wealth and share with us 2 smart decisions that he took upfront, which have powered his success and 2 not-so-smart decisions that he would gladly reverse, if only he could go back in time. Here are his 2 hits and 2 misses. And, in the misses, lie very valuable lessons for young entrepreneurs who are embarking on a journey that Abhenav set out on, 5 years ago.


Its been five years since I set up Vyana Wealth. When I started out on this journey, I was just 22 years old. Short on experience, but high on ambition and ideas. I have been asked to share my thoughts on what, with the benefit of hindsight would I have done differently, if I were to set up Vyana all over again and what are the things I would have done just the same.

2 Hits

Let me discuss what I think we did right - the things I would not change at all, if I were to set up Vyana Wealth all over again.

    1. Brand

    From the beginning, I was clear that I need to create a brand for my firm that would be different and over time much larger than my individual name. I did not want to set up Abhenav Khettry & Co, and forever restrict the scope of the business to what I can do individually. From day 1, we set up a brand called Vyana Wealth, and we invested smartly in promoting the brand and making it relevant in our target client segment. Every form of client communication or interface was with Vyana Wealth, and that focus continues today. We have, in these 5 years, created some recall for our brand, and that helps drive the retail side of our business significantly. The decision to create a brand from day 1 has helped significantly, though I must say that it does involve upfront capital spending as you don't have any revenues in the early days from which you can pay for branding.

    2. Technology

    The other decision that I took early on, which has really helped, is to invest in technology from day 1. We bought the InvestWell software, we enabled clients to get web access to their portfolios and most importantly, we were able to service all client queries speedily and effectively as we did not have to go to AMCs for every piece of information. Quick and efficient service helped build client comfort, which strengthened our business considerably. I think for a business like ours which is so service intensive, you have no choice but to invest in appropriate technology that helps you serve clients the way they want to be served. Again, this was a decision that required some spending upfront, when revenues were scarce, but the positive impact on business was immense.

2 misses

The two things I think I didn't do well enough - the things I would change if I were to go back in time and set up Vyana Wealth all over again are both people oriented experiences.

    1. Team

    I have realized through experience that it pays to attract good quality talent, even if this talent is a little expensive. I have experienced hiring a team that I thought was very cost-effective, in my early days. It cost me less, but was certainly not cost-effective. When you hire sub-optimal people, they become a big drag on your personal time, which you would rather focus on growing your business. There were so many occasions where I had to step in to do things myself, as I did not want my clients to get anything less than the best quality service. Spending that time in doing stuff yourself because you want to hire lower cost staff is penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking. I re-organised my team after some of these experiences and realized the value to having a great team work with you and serve your clients, even if it means paying a little more than your comfort zone.

    2. Partners

    Perhaps the biggest mistake I made when I started out is to enter into a partnership with a "sleeping partner", without analyzing the pros and cons properly. In the beginning, when you start out and capital is scarce, a financing partner seems like a welcome idea. You don't have to pay interest from the first quarter, you can use the money to invest in technology, invest in your brand. But, what I didn't see clearly enough is that parting with equity to a financier seems like a good idea only in the initial period. Once you establish your business, once your income stream stabilizes and grows - entirely through your own efforts, the incremental value that your investor / sleeping partner brings in is nothing. But, you are making higher and higher payouts as share of profits year after year. I have only recently concluded a separation from this arrangement, where I have had to buy back the equity from my sleeping partner at a significant valuation premium. I have, in a sense, paid somebody else for my efforts and my worth! Nevertheless, from a long term point of view, I guess its better that this buy back happened now than 5 years later.

For anybody who is starting out now, my simple advice would be don't jump at a financing option that looks convenient in the short term. This is not a very capital intensive business and you can actually even do simple things like taking a personal loan or a business loan to get yourself started. Hard work over the first couple of years will enable you to pay off these loans - but your company will still be entirely yours. Look for a partner only when you think the partner will add lasting value to your firm - either through business development or by running a part of the firm that he or she is better equipped to do. A sleeping partner or an investor is not a good idea. Its best to have confidence in oneself and move ahead, rather than jumping at an option of "easy finance" which ultimately proves very costly.

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