India’s Best Fund Managers 2021

Driven by diligence

Canara Robeco's Cheenu Gupta believes in knowing her companies inside out, and never being too sure of one’s analysis 

Cheenu Gupta, fund manager at Canara Robeco, is nothing if not thorough. When she started her career, as an equity research analyst at UTI Mutual Fund in 2006, she put in legwork that any rookie would proudly look back at. For every company that she was covering, she met the company management and the business heads, visited every manufacturing plant, and spoke to nearly everyone in the supply chain, besides reading analyst call transcripts and talking to sector experts.

“My stint at UTI trained me to do exhaustive research into every stock and not just rely on numbers,” she says.

It is tiring work, but the excitement keeps Gupta going. She had grown up seeing her family invest money in fixed deposits and when she discovered equity investing, she found it fascinating. “It was the idea of putting passive money to work that interested me,” she says. After graduating in engineering, she pursued her PGDBM in Finance, when she made her first equity investment.

LEARNING THE ROPES
She learnt a few hard lessons early. She had put her money in Ispat, which was trading cheap then. A few years later, crippled by huge debt, it began to lose value. “I don’t think I was ever able to recover my money,” she says. Another investment where she lost money, as a student, was Indian Hotels. They had prime assets, but the stock corrected for cyclical reasons. These encounters taught her that business is more than valuation, that other factors such as corporate governance and sector related cyclicality, headwinds and tailwinds matter too.
After her masters, she joined UTI, where her conviction in looking at a company from every angle strengthened. In 2012, she made her transition into a fund manager’s role with Tata AIA Life Insurance. In 2018, she moved to the mutual fund sector, as a fund manager with Canara Robeco.