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From a Rs 1,400-job to making millions
Mahesh Singhi
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June 06, 2005

Mahesh SinghiA small-town boy from Jodhpur, armed with a recent degree in mechanical engineering from Jaipur, joined LML Vespa in Kanpur in 1987 at a paltry salary of Rs 1,400 a month.

Today, Mahesh Singhi is the founder of the Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) Singhi & Associates Advisors based in Mumbai. The business groups he has advised so far include the A V Birla, Bajaj and the Jumbo Group and other companies like Sumitomo Chemicals, Datamatics, IVRCL, Hakoba and Nimbus [Get Quote].

Modest beginnings

After working with LML Vespa for a year at the shopfloor level, I went on to join Ferro Alloys, a rolling mill in Nagpur, at a raise of Rs 100 a month. I worked absolutely at grassroot levels there. I always envied chartered accountants of my age who were earning a salary of at least Rs 5,000 per month.

I thought there was better money in consulting (that was demonstrated by my CA peers) than working at the shopfloor level. So I left Nagpur in 6-7 months and moved to Mumbai.

First Stroke with consulting

In January 1989 I took a table space in an office complex at Bandup in suburban Mumbai. My job now was project consulting, and I got some work after the IMTEX engineering machinery show.

I also got some good clientele in Mumbai's engineering clusters, where there used to be 20-30 factories in one building alone. My consultancy spanned maintenance of machinery, their optimal utilisation, and so on.

I could save some of my salary, of which Rs 4,000 went into a deposit for paying guest accommodation. My first big project was worth Rs 400,000, for which I got a consultancy fee of Rs 8,000, my biggest earning so far.

No looking back

There has been no looking back since then. I started advising companies on improving their capacities, removing bottlenecks, reducing overheads and other engineering innovations.

At this juncture I experimented with another idea. From mere project consultancy I ventured into the area of fund raising. Singhi & Associates' (S&A) acquired proprietorship came up in 2003.

New Vistas

My friends also suggested that I could get into the financial world, even though I had no formal qualifications. So I took a plunge into the highly competitive financial advisory business.

I didn't just restrict myself to fund-raising, but also got into technical fields like private equity, valuation, mergers and acquisitions and due diligence.

Singhi & Associates has since then expanded to loan syndication, working capital finance, project appraisal, turnaround management and restructuring of sick units. In the process I also shifted my office from the suburbs into Mumbai proper, and also built on some properties, which earns me good rent.

Moving out of Mumbai

Today S&A has a team of over 30 professionals and we have offices in the UK and Mauritius apart from one each in Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Surat.

We are associated with reputed business houses, whom we have advised. I personally travel to different offices. I make it a point to visit Delhi once a month. Anyway, even if I am required in any of the offices in India, I just require two hours' notice.

Ups and downs

S & A saw some highs and lows in the process of growing. For instance, in 1998, when we took some major orders, we suddenly lost four people. In a small organisation losing four out of six professionals is quite something.

In fact, one of them went and formed a rival business. But we soon got new people and carried on. Also, I took a loan of Rs 500,000 to get a bigger office, which I really had to squeeze resources in order to repay. My wife, who is also a director on the board, stood by me in my trying times.

-- As told to Sangeeta Singh

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