Amit's tryst with Bangkok - no, it's not what you are thinking!


Why does Sapient Wealth's Amit Bivalkar visit Bangkok so often? And that too, footing his own bill - not on any AMC junket. Before you let your mind run wild thinking of what he might be upto in Bangkok, let's clarify - it's not what you think! His Bangkok initiative is a great example of an entrepreneur sensing a market opportunity, grabbing it with both hands, and then committing himself whole-heartedly to make it a success. And what a success its turning out to be - a moment of serendipity is literally opening up a world of possibilities for Sapient in the lucrative and underpenetrated NRI segment. Read on as Amit shares his Bangkok story with us.


imgbd A couple of years ago, a friend was transferred to a posting in Bangkok. I visited him in September 2015. He had a few friends from Bangkok over at his place and there was a lively discussion around planning a traditional program around Diwali. My curiosity was aroused and I sought more information. I learned that there is a Maharashtra Mandal in Bangkok, which is the glue that binds together around 240 Maharashtrian families in Bangkok. The Mandal organizes three events each year - 1st May - which is Maharashtra Day, Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali. I learned that Maharashtra Mandals are active in almost every large city around the world.

On an impulse, I offered to sponsor the upcoming Diwali event and asked for 30 minutes time for a presentation. They agreed and I flew back into Bangkok in Nov 2015 to participate in the event and make my 30 minute presentation. We circulated some promotional material along with local contact numbers where Mandal members could reach us. I stayed back for 2 days to make myself available for follow up meetings. 4 prospects called me and we signed up 1 client.


When preparations for May day 2016 were being made by the Mandal, I got a call from them asking whether we would like to sponsor that event. I instantly agreed, despite the rather humble start we made with our initial foray. People were a lot warmer this time around and many more meaningful conversations happened with a number of prospects. I learnt that many of the Mandal members had been mis-sold ULIPs by banks, and the amounts invested were quite high - often running into crores of rupees. I understood their initial reluctance to discuss their financial portfolio.

I went back in Nov 2016, again sponsoring the Diwali event. The relationship was now getting much better - they saw in us a commitment towards them, they saw a willingness to build the right equation based on trust and confidence, and to be honest, somewhere there was also the additional comfort of dealing with a fellow Maharashtrian. Business generation started picking up and clients who signed up came in with investments of at least 50 lakhs and above. Between Nov 2016 and May 2017, we mobilized an AuM of around Rs.10 crores from them. It helped that we offer a fully online customer experience - so when clients wanted to buy, they could simply execute online without any paperwork going back and forth between Pune and Bangkok.

When I went back to Bangkok in May 2017, people were actually waiting for me! They had seen me coming there long enough, they heard good opinions from their friends who had become our clients - and they were ready to make investments. Our AuM from this group shot up from Rs.10 crores to Rs.22 crores. Making the investment of time, effort and money into building these relationships paid off handsomely for us.

Word got around in Bangkok among the Indian community about what we were doing with the Maharashtra Mandal there. We have now been invited by the Punjabi and the Sindhi associations in Bangkok to meet them. This month, we have scheduled a sit down dinner event with 60 prominent members of the Indian diaspora in Bangkok - all of them are either business owners or country heads of large companies. We have already scheduled a few meetings in the subsequent days with prominent members of these groups. Word of mouth is sure working well for us - now that we have put in a consistent effort over the last 2 years in Bangkok.

The Bangkok Maharashtra Mandal effort is also spawning newer avenues for us at Sapient. It turns out that the heads of Maharashtra Mandals from all key cities across the globe are regularly in touch with each other. Word spread about our association with the Bangkok Maharashtra Mandal - which has now resulted in us being invited in Jan 2018 to host an event for 600 members of Dubai's Maharashtra Mandal, followed by a similar event at Muscat. I have also gathered that the San Francisco Maharashtra Mandal is the largest - with over 3,000 members. That's where I want to head next!


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