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BANKING

Asia: The rise and rise of India’s challenger firms

Whip-smart M&A boutiques and upstart full-service investment banks are making waves in India, profiting from the retreat of global investment banks. But how much further can they go?

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For Rajeev Gupta, there was no specific ‘Eureka!’ moment. Rather, the revelation that led the Mumbai-based investment banker to alter the course of his career for a third time, discarding the comfortable world of private equity and opening his own boutique advisory house, Arpwood Capital, was a long, slow burn. 

It was 2010 and Gupta was happily ensconced at The Carlyle Group in charge of the US buyout group’s bustling India operations. Life was good, deals were flowing and the after-shocks of the financial crisis, which largely bypassed India, were a faraway problem. He had done his time at the coal face, working for 20 years at full-service Mumbai brokerage DSP Merrill Lynch, before joining Carlyle in 2005, and he was in no hurry to return.

But something kept gnawing at him. When Gupta left DSP, it was as head of investment banking. That job required him to take time to nurture and tend to clients; to listen to their problems and needs. It meant he knew good service when it stared him in the face. Yet now, when bankers came to pitch ideas or offer sage advice, good service was the last thing he saw.