At half-past three on a Thursday afternoon, we are ushered into a lounge on the 6th floor of Bajaj Finserv’s Pune headquarters. We’re here to meet Sanjiv Bajaj, vice-chairman of the holding company which owns, in terms of market cap, the country’s second-largest non-banking finance company (NBFC); the most-profitable private general insurance company and the biggest private life insurer in terms of lives covered. Bajaj steps out of a marathon executive meeting to speak with us but appears relaxed and unhurried as he settles down to talk about his company’s metamorphosis over the past decade.
An engineer from Britain’s University of Warwick and with an MBA from Harvard Business School, the 47-year-old Bajaj took over the financial services business in 2008 in a division of the family business that saw elder brother Rajiv taking charge of the automobile business. It may not have seemed like the best deal at that point in time: the business that Sanjiv got was a far cry from the financial powerhouse it is today; Finserv was a loss-making entity while Rajiv throttled away on a more profitable group flagship. But that was then. From a loss of Rs.32 crore in FY08, Finserv has grown exponentially to close FY17 with Rs.2,261 crore profit. It is now the country’s third-largest financial services company with a market-cap of over Rs.69,400 crore, while its revenue has been growing at a CAGR of 34% over the past eight years, profitability has galloped even faster, at 54% CAGR (see: Going great guns).
That performance has largely been driven by Bajaj Finance (BFL), which today runs the biggest book in the consumer finance business in the country with assets of nearly Rs.65,121 crore (as on Q1FY18). It’s not surprising, then, that investors, including the country’s biggest foreign institutional investor Capital International and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, have lapped up BFL’s story enthusiastically. And they got more than their money’s worth. The BFL stock has dished out a phenomenal 56x return against the benchmark return of 95% since FY08 (calculated since May 26, 2008, when Finserv was listed). The unlisted insurance ventures with Allianz, too, have made their mark with robust prof