A good financial advisor is one who can provide good service and financial advice to his customers and can also guide them properly. Financial advisors offer a variety of services, to secure the future of clients financially. Mr. Lokesh Agrawal is helping out people with his vast experience in the field of finance through ACE Consultancy.
In a talk with him lets discover more about ACE Consultancy’s journey since the inception and what they offer to their valuable clients
Tell us about the company.
ACE Consultancy is going to complete 12 years shortly. It was founded in February 2008. I, Mr. Lokesh Agrawal, am the promoter. After my MBA Finance degree, in 2001, I started working in a finance consultancy firm in Mumbai for a year. Then, after a few other stints career-wise, ACE Consultancy came into being.
ACE Consultancy is a finance consultancy firm that deals in Debt & Equity market both.
Through various innovative debt products of Banks and NBFCs, we raise funds for our clients, such as Property Finance, Secured & Unsecured Working Capital Loan as well as Project Finance. And, on the Equity front, we raise investment in the company by way of diluting company shares.
What were the initial challenges you faced?
Everyone faces challenges, irrespective of whether it is one’s job or business. I have encountered multiple challenges at the beginning of my career. Mumbai was alien to me and everything here was a challenge, from accommodation to travel, communicating with the locals and the city’s mindset. I was the first person from my family to step away from our traditional jewelry business to do something different and on my own; I knew I couldn’t afford to lose to the challenges I faced. Had I given up, it would have stopped an entire generation in my family from doing something different, as they looked up to me for inspiration.
It was my go-getter attitude and, of course, support from family that helped me overcome all hurdles.
Apart from that, the financial market is extremely fluid. In such a market, it sometimes becomes difficult to take a call regarding what best we can offer to the customer. For example, every day, there is something new in the market. So a big hurdle we faced and overcame was to stand strong against our competition without diluting our pricing or our integrity while servicing our clients.
Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?
Well, there were many. But if am to single out that one point that triggered the growth of ACE Consultancy, I’d have to say it was Networking. Here, as a company, we learned to increase our network. As the old saying goes, “Your network is your net worth.” We realized that business was all about networking. It helped us every step of the way. Networking helped us in growing our team and in getting connected with decision-makers at multiple banks. But most of all, it helped us grow our salesforce by massive numbers. This was what gave our nascent business the push it required. Today too, networking is a major part of ACE Consultancy’s sales strategy.
How have the company graphs changed since the foundation?
There had been many ups and downs in the company’s graph since its foundation. These happened due to various factors like recession, government policies, political uncertainties and, more recently, due to demonetization and GST.
Sometimes government policies pushed our graph up and sometimes it dragged it all the way down. To start with, ACE Consultancy was founded in 2008. That was the year when the great recession of our times had also started. We transacted in 50 crores of debt proposals; it was the same in 2009 too. Post-2009, the turnover increased every year by a minimum of 25% until 2012. After being around for five years, we added more products and manpower to the bandwagon.
In 2013, we successfully crossed the 250-cr. mark, and since then, we have consistently added an additional 75-100 cr. in fundraising for every year until demonetization in November 2018. Post demonetization, the debt raising market has gone down drastically and our book size fell by a whopping 50%. Unexpectedly, GST somehow pushed our graph up once again and brought us back in the 800-cr. bracket.
What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?
The long-standing success of any company finally points towards customer retention. It is extremely difficult to retain customers, hence, being able to do so matters the most. And, the reason why we are able to do so is the customer-oriented services we offer.
Our customer-centric services not only helped us retain our existing customers but brought us an entirely new set of clients through our old ones.
What are the services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
At ACE Consultancy, we focused on both Debt & Equity depending on a client’s requirement. We are associated with various Banks and NBFCs as their service providers. We deal in various debt fund products like Property Loan, Secured & Unsecured Working Capital Loan, Lease Rent Discounting, Debt Consolidation, and Project Finance. And in Equity funds, we have a combination of tools depending on factors such as requirement, industry, size & entry & exit options.
What differentiates us from our competition is our motto. We don’t aim to simply arrange the finance for our clients. We are more interested in fulfilling their various requirements by getting them the best possible deals. Our transparency is our biggest USP.
How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
Sometimes traditional products are not sufficient to get the desired result, as every single client has a different set of challenges and scale of business. So, we, as consultants, always look for different options through which we can satisfy their needs. Hence, we keep adding new products to our quiver so as to offer the best solutions to our customers.
Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
My experience in the finance industry actually started at a really early age, when I used to handle my father’s jewelry business’ finance. The professional experience, however, started after completing my MBA in Finance in 2001. I started working as an executive in a finance consultancy firm in Mumbai for a year. Post that, I was recruited as a Team Head by a limited company till the end of 2003. In 2004, I then started a partnership firm that dealt with almost all Banks and NBFCs. Towards the end of 2007, we dissolved the partnership firm. This made way for ACE Consultancy.
What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?
For me, the definition of achievement is gaining support, trust, and name in the market.
I have witnessed many success stories, for which we were also recognized by a magazine as one of the Top 25 Most Promising Debt Consultants in India. Additionally, we have received testimonials from numerous clients, some of which available for your perusal on our website and YouTube channel. However, if I were to give you a few examples, they would be as follows:
1. Successfully closed a deal of one billion in 3 months’ time
2. Served more than 1100 clients, raising over 850 crores in finance
3. Apart from amazing finance figures, achieved the trust of innumerable people
How do you look after your employees? What makes your team unique?
Like any other entrepreneur, I believe that my employees are assets of the company. And, we take care of our employees in the same way that we take care of our treasured assets. Everyone at ACE Consultancy is treated as the owner of the company so they work with complete ownership and responsibility, which makes the clients, employees and organization’s life easy.
A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor.Swami Vivekananda.
Constant vigilance- a need or a strategy? Please share your views.
Constant vigilance is the need of the hour. With so many fraud cases registered in the world of finance, there is constant scrutiny and vigilance. But with the need for vigilance comes the need for us to have a strategy that is required to fulfill that need. These days, there are finance and tax frauds worth thousands of crores. In such times, it is important for the government to be vigilant and for us to be strategic about the kind of lending that is being undertaken.
Is there any special experience with your clients you would like to highlight?
We have had some wonderful experiences with our clients and vice-versa. I especially remember this once when a lady, who was the director of a company, had approached us through our website. She was completely frustrated and feeling helpless. Her company was desperately looking to raise Working Capital but due to very thin profitability shown on paper, most financial institutions had already refused to finance them. She approached us feeling as a last resort, hoping to give it one last shot.
We did study the case extensively, mapped the flow of funds, and figured out possible aspects to increase the top line and profitability. When we shared this with her, she was speechless to see that there was enough scope to take the company to the next level. And based on our work, we managed to arrange a Working Capital limit for her company from a Bank. She remains speechless to date.