Sankaran Naren has seen firsthand India’s investing transformation.
Sankaran Naren was a child in the 1970s when the Indian government passed the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, which mandated foreign companies dilute their holdings in India. The result was that multinational corporations such as Colgate, Nestle, and Pfizer had to be listed in India. Naren’s father invested in their underpriced IPOs and earned significant returns. Naren was hooked on investing.
“I realized that equities as an asset class can make sizable gains for any investor, if invested at the right price,” he says.
After getting an engineering degree, Naren focused on finance while earning an MBA in 1989 at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. He knew he wanted to make a career in the financial markets.
Three decades later, he has seen the entire cycle of India’s evolution to an economic powerhouse— from preliberalization to now.
Right Place, Right Time
Today, Naren, the chief investment officer and executive director of ICICI Prudential Asset Management in Mumbai, is among the most respected names in the Indian fund industry. He is known as one of India’s best value investors, and his easygoing demeanor and straight talk, and his ability to communicate simply about investing, have endeared him to retail investors and financial advisors alike across India.
With all his success, Naren says that he was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time. He worked for a brokerage house in the city of Chennai in the 1990s. His desire to become a fund manager then brought him to Mumbai, the financial capital of India. He became chief operating officer of HDFC Securities before joining ICICI Prudential as a fund manager in 2004, a time when awareness of mutual funds in India was low. The fund industry’s assets under management were small, as Indians chose other places to put their savings.
All that changed with a bull market. From 2003 to 2008, India’s S&P BSE Sensex index increased sevenfold.
The timing proved to be very beneficial for both ICICI Prudential and Naren. Naren’s funds performed well, and in 2011, he became the firm’s chief investment officer. He still manages two funds: ICICI Prudential Dynamic Plan and ICICI Prudential Top 100 Fund. In 2016, he added executive director to his title. Meanwhile, ICICI Prudential became the largest asset-management company in India.