What do you do when you are rejected for your dream job and can’t deal with one more person telling you to be strong? What stops you from asking for that big role at work when you know you have a shot at getting it? In Limitless: The Power of Unlocking your True Potential, by Radhika Gupta, MD, and CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund, draws on her personal experiences to offer pragmatic life lessons and insights to build one’s career. Unlike biographies of corporate honchos, which paint them as heroes, this book lets us in on the insecurities she’s navigated, she faced 7 rejections before she got her first job and contemplated suicide, and her career missteps and learning.
Who is Radhika Gupta?
Radhika Gupta is MD and CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund, a former hedge fund manager, and a McKinsey and Wharton alumna. She is India’s only female head of a major asset manager and has set up the country’s first domestic hedge fund
She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where She received degrees in Computer Science and Economics in 2005. She graduated summa cum laude(an honor awarded to a student whose grade point average (GPA) is between 3.80 and 4.00)
She was born to a diplomat father who was an Indian Foreign Service official. With her family, she moved across continents. She was born in Pakistan, where she had complications at her birth and she ended up with a broken neck which she describes as a “weird tilt” to her head. In her book, She talks about the struggles that she faced as she moved to US, India studied in DPS, then in Nigeria studied in an International school with kids who were from rich families.
She was Program Manager Intern for Microsoft for two summers (2003, 2004) for Microsoft Office (Graphics and Presentations – Powerpoint and Visio), where she was responsible for conceptualizing and designing new features in Office products.
She started her career in 2005 at McKinsey & Company as a Business Analyst. In 2006, she was a part of the global asset allocation team at AQR Capital Management, LLC, as Portfolio Manager
Along with Nalin Moniz and Anant Jatia, Gupta founded Forefront Capital Management in 2009, which was acquired by Edelweiss Financial Services Limited in 2014. She became the CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund in Feb 2017.
The Book, Limitless
My hope from Limitless was that multiple generations – parents who have worked for years and their kids who are just starting their careers – would find something meaningful.
The book, 288 pages, is engaging, simple to read, non-preachy, down-to-earth, and can be read from cover to cover in a couple of sittings. This book stands out. It is filled with real events, real problems, and real executable solutions. It is relevant in today’s era where problems are not what they were 10 years back.
In the book she also draws parallels between life lessons and investing lessons. For example, the analogy between not making your career decisions to win the approval of peers and the difficulty of generating alpha while benchmark-hugging.
The core lesson of the book is to invest in the most valuable asset you possess: Yourself; own your ambition; embrace your uniqueness; recognize the role your critics will play in your achievements; allow rejection to redirect you to your desired destination; cultivate resilience.
At some point, each of us will face rejection of some kind, That is a guarantee!
I loved the first chapter which talks about rejections, and how unprepared we are to deal with rejections as the excerpt(from the book) below shows. But everyone has faced rejection. We all love the deep baritone of Amitabh Bachchan. But even Amitabh Bachchan was rejected by All India Radio when he applied for the post of newsreader/commentator. His first 12 movies flopped till Zanjeer became a blockbuster. How actress Vidya Balan was called a jinx when her debut Malayalam movie was shelved. (That’s how the first chapter starts).
Though she was good at academics, for campus placements, she was rejected 7 times, which made her doubt herself and even think aloud about suicide. She was taken to a psychiatric ward where she was left after a day as she had an interview at Mckinsey. And in her 90-minute interview, she talked for 85 minutes about the bridge. The bridge which her parents taught her when she was 13 and wanted to develop hobbies. And when on getting hired she broke down and asked her interviewer why did she hire her, she got the reply, because she was unique.
Her second chapter is about feedback, or rather how we take feedback? In spite of selling most, she got feedback from her first boss on her lacking emotional maturity. How did she feel? How did she react?
The turmoil and doubts that assailed her when she gave up a highly paid stint at Wall Street, to her parents’ horror, to move back to Mumbai to start a fund of her own. She talks about her parents’ horror at her uprooting a ‘well-settled’ US career to make this risky move.
I loved the part where she bought
The book has a lot of good, useful career advice.
She tells new MBA graduates that they shouldn’t expect to ‘fall in love with their jobs or to discover a ‘grand passion’ for them. She notes that career success for most folk comes from surviving “prolonged periods of hell” at a mundane job. It is the willingness to persist with grunt work and not PPTs that hold the key to one’s ascent. She gave an example of how in her first project at Mckinsey she was put on a cost-cutting study for an electronics retailer. She walked around the store with a time a timesheet and a stopwatch, starting at 5 am and ending at 10 pm. This went on for 6 days a week. Three weeks into the job she hated it, and she couldn’t tell her friends, or her family as no one complains about a job at McKinsey.
Almost all the jobs are low on glamour and higher on Grunt work than they are perceived to be. But it is the grunt work that teaches you the most and toughens you up.
She also has advice for social media-conscious young graduates. The author warns against the dangers of taking up job offers mainly to impress one’s peers at college and to obsess over how every new employer or work title would look on one’s CV. Both habits prevent you from taking up unconventional career opportunities that ultimately lead to success.
Given her relative youth, she doesn’t rely only on her own experiences. She also draws on her interactions with the icons of the Indian industry too. So, you get to read the story of Anu Aga, who had to take over the reins of Thermax and turn it around amid debilitating personal tragedy(of death of her husband and children). Or the anecdote about how Kalpen Parekh, the CEO of DSP Mutual Fund, wasn’t shy of attending a course at Flame University to equip himself to lead the investment side of the business.
Video of Girl with a Broken Neck
This viral video is a great talk by Radhika Gupta, where she recounts her struggles, her uniqueness. If you can’t or don’t want to read the book, then we would highly recommend you to see the video.
How does Radhika Gupta invest?
Since 2020, Financial Paper Livemint has had an annual series on the personal finance of industry leaders of financial services. The series looks at how their investments have fared, the changes made to their portfolios, and the investment lessons they have for investors. From the article Where do the Financial Leaders Invest: Nikhil Kamath, Saurabh Mukherjea, Radhika Gupta & more
Radhika continues to keep her contingency money in arbitrage funds, which is sufficient for at least a year.
She has been maintaining 65-70% in equity since 2020. In the last year, her equity allocation of 70% (excluding employee stock ownership plan or Esops) has delivered a return of 18%, which is in line with Sensex’s gains during the same period. “There will be no significant changes in the equity segment, but I will be adding some unlisted equity exposure via a new fund we will launch,” she said. This addition will be in the alternate category of her portfolio.
As of now, Radhika doesn’t hold any gold or real estate in her portfolio(she owns a house where she lives)
She is holding global stocks, especially in emerging markets, as part of the equity segment, which has trailed India returns over the last year, but, “I continue to hold it as part of the asset allocation,” she said.
According to Radhika, her debt allocation has reduced in the overall portfolio from 35% in 2020 and 30% in 2021 to 20% at present. The balance has been allocated to the alternate asset class. The debt portion, which is only in hybrid funds, of Gupta’s portfolio has delivered a return of 5% on a yearly basis, as she doesn’t look to shift between categories in the segment. “It doesn’t make sense to hold debt out right when you have a home loan,” she argues.
It is a down-to-earth and easily digestible read. Drawing on personal experiences of overcoming adversity and attaining success, her own and those of other achievers, Radhika’s stories and practical counsel will help you discover self-confidence and live your best life. And it would be great for your children to read this book, as they start their college, career.