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MUMBAI : Led by a new management and professionally-managed independent board, Religare Group’s efforts to put legacy issues behind it and chart a turnaround by adopting a multi-pronged strategy for its financial services verticals has resulted in a marked improvement in performance. In an interview, Rashmi Saluja, chairperson, Religare Enterprises Ltd, shared the road map for revival. Edited excerpts:

 

Can we safely say all of Religare’s legacy issues are behind it?

While we have overcome most challenges and legacy issues, and are now into a growth phase, we have to ensure we recover the funds and assets which are rightfully owned by our companies, Religare Enterprises and Religare Finvest. These assets and funds belong to shareholders and lenders of these companies and it is our duty to do justice to that; hence we are pursuing all legal and corrective recourses to ensure that we make good of financial losses and irregularities. Second, the revival of Religare Finvest, which suffered due to the wrong actions of past promoters and management, is on priority and we are confident of achieving our goals. In one sense, we are working towards these upsides and have overcome all challenges of past legacy.

What has Religare’s revival journey been like? Can you share the key initiatives you have taken?

Religare’s revival journey has been very rewarding and satisfying. It took efforts to take stock of the issues at hand, make course corrections and stabilize the ship. We are now moving to a phase of sustainable and fast-paced growth. An independent board was established in 2018 and I have been fortunate to chair the board in the capacity of executive chairperson. The new board and management at Religare Enterprises have been working with focused energy to create Religare 2.0, built around the pillars of sound corporate governance, robust business models, efficient capital planning and sustainable, responsible growth philosophy. The board has been functioning in a stable manner and despite the challenges of the past, REL and its group companies have raised around 1,500 crore of equity growth capital in the last three years.

Can you share the details of the monetization initiatives undertaken by the company?

We are focusing on building and growing the right businesses and investing in new areas. Our motto is growth. Monetization is being done selectively only for non-core assets and business areas where we do not have structural growth or synergy. We have sold some stressed assets of the NBFC business to assets reconstruction companies (ARCs) in 2020 (and before) through which we utilized to repay RFL’s lenders. Otherwise we are investing heavily in the insurance and broking business, and are working 24x7 to revitalize lending operations. We are also evaluating investment in new business areas such as insurance broking, ARC, asset management company, wealth management, and alternative investment funds.

What has been your personal experience in steering the company during a challenging time?

It’s been a positive and enriching journey so far. India’s financial services sector has been among the fastest growing sectors in the economy—a trend that is likely to persist given the diverse opportunities that continue to emerge.

As the sector expands, if you are good at your job and approachable, and you work well in a team, you can manage any business challenge that comes your way. As a woman leader, it is very important to stand one’s ground to ensure an environment of respect and professionalism, and be able to thrive in the face of adversity successfully even for the long term.

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