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In entrepreneurship, you have to believe in God, and then dream: says Rana Kapoor of YES Bank

Dola Samanta
3rd Feb 2016
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Rana Kapoor, MD & CEO, YES Bank

Set up just 12 years ago, Yes Bank is now one of the largest private sectors bank in the country. At the helm of its story is Rana Kapoor, who believes in the power of dreams. In 1980, he started his professional journey joining The Bank of America as a management trainee, only to move back to India and start YES Bank in 2003.

Like others in the banking sector, YES Bank is also looking at widening its association with the burgeoning startup world, and recently tied up with Freecharge for its digital wallet.

In a candid chat with YourStory at E-Cell- IIT Bombay , The Entrepreneurship Summit, 2016, Rana Kapoor, MD & CEO,YES Bank, spoke about his journey as an entrepreneur, his faith in God and the power of dreams.

Talking about the bank’s association with startups, Rana Kapoor emphasises on the importance of specialisation as a pivot of entrepreneurship and the ability of banks to be transformational agents if they commit themselves to a sector.

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: Talk us through your entrepreneurial journey.

RK: In entrepreneurship, you have to believe in God,and then dream. Dreams, if converted to reality,become entrepreneurship. There is a step further: you have to visualise as a leader, strategise and then actualise.Thirdly,you have to have a very high emotional quotientat your enterprise, whether it is a small,medium or even large business. This will make you realise that you can transform and build fantastic organisations.

Q: How do you translate the dream and visualisation of the leader to the end member of the organisation?

RK: It's about institutional genetics… how you create the DNA in an organisation. This can't be done through salaries; it has be to done through an owner, managerial and partner concept. The HR strategies are extremely instrumental in building ownership and partnership of employees at every level. It can be top down or middle up, but you must have very good genetics in an institution,especially when you are doing something transformational. People must take pride in that institution. At Yes Bank, our common denominator is what my team calls its bank today: ‘the professionals' bank of India’. The genetics combine when you evangelise and motivate people to come together to collectively believe that this belongs to them.

Q: How do you think startups today can concentrate on HR strategies?

RK: I followed this for a very long time and I personally believe that our startups have the best entrepreneurial minds. But they must realise that you must first build an architecture backbone in terms of sales, distribution, operational system controls etc., and then you can go and raise capital. Capital raising is not in itself the mission; it’s a follow through. They must be able to create revenue potential because it is very important that models must stackup and become profitable. There must be visibility and clarity that businesses are going to be profitable in the course of time, because then only investors will come for the long haul.

Q: What do you think of the startup policy launched recently by the Prime Minister?

RK: I was with the Prime Minister day-before-yesterday and couple of times in the last few months, and I can tell you it’s a fantastic programme. It's about the rejuvenation of India’s latent skills, and the Prime Minister’s aspiration to build millions of entrepreneurs in the country. It's e-commerce, finances services, technology-driven ideas which are percolating in the system.At the same time, the youth must have the confidence and conviction that this is a long-term,sustainable idea and that this is going to do wonders for the country and to their own careers. I would encourage the parents of students to motivate their boys and girls and sons and daughters to participate in this. To me, it’s a stratospheric shift happening. It happened in America.Despite America’s weakness in the economy it always comes back because of great universities and colleges, which are the incubators and accelerators of the economy. To me, India needs that, like what IIT Mumbai is today: a cradle of innovation which has not only built brilliant minds in the city but created ambassadors who are now coming back to invest in their mother country and to do more innovation and invention. The Prime Minister’s game plan is broadly based:'Startup India, Standup India, and then Run India'.

Q: Yes Bank is only 12 years old, but its has already become a unicorn in the startup space. Do you look at yourself as that?

RK: In a way, yes. Thirty-six years ago,I left America after my MBA to come back and take up a job at Bank of America. It all translates to having contagious positive energy, to influence good decision making, especially in adversity, and to consistently deliver to shareholders, stakeholders ,employees and Board of Directors. I personally believe that if you can really dream it you can do it and the secret lies in the mantra 'visualise, strategise and actualise'.

Q: What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who wish to overcome a roadblock?

RK: Every adversity is a fantastic opportunity. It’s a very contrarian view because in the face of adversity people backoff. In Yes Bank, for instance in 2008,when the Eurozone crisis was multiplying, we started concentrating more on infrastructure, brands and advertising we could not afford, and we started hiring more people. We said this is our inflection point in our lifecycle and can we do something which is contrarian. India is a linear fantastic growth story and you can't go wrong with that. There are patches of bad spots and speed breakers, and we must use every speed breaker to create more acceleration and business.

Q: Could you highlight those moments in your life that you came home and felt really happy?

RK: I feel happy everyday at Yes Bank because its so motivational. Creating a greenfield bank with a name like 'Yes Bank,' which started off a lot of skeptics, now I am really happy with my leadershipand those of fellow top leaders.We feel very proud that our bank, being from the country,is recognised worldwide not only for financial results but also for CSR, risk management architecture, and its ability to cater to technology-oriented innovations and inventions. To me that is the most satisfying factor, and everyday is an important day.

Q: What is Yes Bank doing with the startup community?Every bank seems to be trying to capture that market.

RK: We are a contemporary bank and treating it as a basket or engine of growth. In this engine of growth we have to spot neutrality, small enterprises, and medium enterprises,and spot the differentiator. What has changed very dramatically in India is segmentation and industry specialisation.You have to be a specialist today. You have to know your aggregator business,healthcare and education. So, segmentation is a very important pivot in terms of entrepreneurship. I personally like to believe that the fulcrum of Indian banking today is to foster new business and inventions, and banks are the biggest transformational agents of change. In this basket of economy you can do wonders if you really commit yourself as my bank, team and leadership has,to make a difference in every sector. In core traditional sectors, we are a follower, but in sunrise sectors we are a distinguishing factor, and as a differentiator by 2020 we must be the number one bank in the country on mind share.

Q: How do you define success?

RK: To me, success is nation building, as a banker I believe we can do wonders by creating policies to influence a number of things in terms of architecture required. We must, as good bankers and institutions, be able to contribute to nation building.We have great leadership in Delhi and we have right now the responsibility to help them convert good ideas into action.

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