Women of Worth 2017


Aditi Kothari Desai drives performance without rancour despite not having the top job in a company owned by her father

Soumik Kar

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best,
night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight
the hardest battle which any human being can fight;
and never stop fighting.
—ee cummings

The words of this leading 20th century American poet resonate deeply with Aditi Kothari Desai — the daughter of Hemendra Kothari, one of the pioneers of investment banking in India — and the great granddaughter of one of the founders of the Bombay Stock Exchange. As we are about to begin the interview at the DSP BlackRock office in Nariman Point, we notice an amusing list pinned on her whiteboard. Never bullshit, always do your homework, under promise and over deliver, make up the whacky and non-trivial one liners up there. A realistic personification of the sassy and straightforward person she is.

Desai first obtained a bachelor of science degree in Economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in the US. It’s here that she learnt the nitty-gritty of finance before graduating in 1998. Post this, she joined the investment banking group at Merrill Lynch in New York, working with the mergers and the acquisitions department, specifically handling financial institutions such as banks and insurance firms. At the time, Merrill Lynch was in a joint venture with Desai’s father’s DSP Financial in India. She later went on to join the fixed income sales team in the same firm in 2000 and worked there for two years before joining t


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