Indian banker is EY World Entrepreneur of the Year

People-focused Uday Kotak founded Kotak Mahindra Bank in 1985

Uday Kotak: crowned EY World Entrepreneur of the Year in Monaco’s Salle des Etoiles.

Uday Kotak: crowned EY World Entrepreneur of the Year in Monaco’s Salle des Etoiles.

Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 01:00

An Indian banker on a mission to build a people-focused financial-services giant has been crowned EY World Entrepreneur of the Year.

Uday Kotak fought off stiff competition from 10,000 entrepreneurs in more than 50 countries worldwide to take the award at a gala ceremony in Monaco on Saturday night.

Turning down a steady job, Mr Kotak took his chances in a highly regulated, closed economy and founded Kotak Mahindra Bank in 1985 with seed money of $250,000. He said he noticed India’s main banks were lending money at 17 per cent and only paying depositors 6 per cent. “The banks were getting an 11-point spread . . . state-owned banks that were supposed to be building society.”

World Entrepreneur of the Year Uday Kotak

Assets of $19bn

Today, the bank has 605 branches across 354 locations in India and offices in London, New York, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius and Singapore. It boasts annual revenues of $2.8 billion and assets of $19 billion.

Accepting the award in Monte Carlo, Mr Kotak credited the work of his 25,000 employees “who have worked hard to build a world-class Indian financial services brand”.

The 10-person judging panel, which included Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien, looked at both a company’s performance and its commitments to “giving back” to society.

Chairman of the judging panel Canadian entrepreneur Rebecca McDonald of the Just Energy Group, said the judges deliberated for four hours before unanimously agreeing on a winner: “India is not an easy place to start a bank. It’s a very difficult market and highly regulated, and it takes a brave man to do that.”

Inspirational figure

By providing Indian business with more competitively priced financial services, she said Mr Kotak was “potentially creating many new entrepreneurs in India, and that was very important to the judging panel”.

Mr Kotak becomes the second World Entrepreneur of the Year from India, following Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys Technologies, who claimed the honour in 2003.

Country finalists, including Ireland’s representative Suretank founder Patrick Joy, attended a four-day conference in Monaco in the run-up to the awards ceremony. They heard from speakers including former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Muhammad Yunus and domestic diva Martha Stewart.