EFI's CEO Rajan Uttamchandani is a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 awards, he got featured on the front page of Business World on October 10.
“My background in businesses helps, because I can best create value when I understand the business. And when you believe what you’re consulting for, you can also provide financing for it.”
-Rajan A. Uttamchandani
The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2013 will be announced on Oct. 16, 2013 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2014.
Read the story posted on Business World
Rajan Uttamchandani became involved in financing at a young age when he began working at his father’s company, Esquire International Financing, Inc. (EIFI). This experienced allowed him to gain knowledge and expertise in about every aspect of the industry. Mr. Uttamchandani graduated from Bentley University, Massachusetts USA, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Corporate Finance and Accounting. He completed his Masters in Entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management and also finished the Key Executives Program for Owners, Presidents and Management at Harvard Business School.
While in the US, Mr. Uttamchandani worked for a bank to get into financial consulting but realized that it wasn’t the kind of work he was looking for. “It felt like they were just selling products, pushing them,” he said, “they weren’t really helping people.” “That for me wasn’t consulting, I didn’t see any value. In business you always want to create value and see where your competence is. I felt like a salesman because there was no thinking behind it, no intuition.”
In 2007 Mr. Uttamchandani joined EIFI to work in the SMEs and Microfinance Division. It was during this time that he founded the HELP foundation; a non-stock non-profit organization that provided microfinancing in rural areas. One of the insights he gained was that while financing was available to large corporations and microfinancing for microbusinesses, most SMEs lacked stable access to finance. “Banks would rather lend to large institutions that have capital and assets,” he explained. Seeing an opportunity to address this need, he decided to start EFI in 2011 address this problem.
EFI’s main targets are SMEs that have long term plans. “We offer professional networking to help clients prime their business for continuous growth and long term success. We want to help SMEs who eventually want to become a big player in their respective industries. We are very diversified in who we lend to, from maternity clinics to schools to construction companies,” states Mr. Uttamchandani.
EFI believes in building a true relationship with clients. “I think that sense of relationship where you’re willing to work with a client is what separates us from a bank or any other lender,” shares Mr. Uttamchandani. Unlike banks that have generic loan programs, EFI creates a tailor-made financial program that best fits a client’s needs, goals, current cash flows, capacity, and financial position. “We ask you about your business, like ‘how much are your sales?’ Then I come up with the daily revenue, and then we come up with expense figures. When we draw a financial statement for them, they now see a clearer picture of their business,” he explains.
Part of their client-centered business model includes providing consultants who help with financial and IT management to help the business develop. EFI aims to help companies grow as a business, and eventually, a bankable enterprise. “Our vision is really to grow the business. Nothing gives us more pleasure than graduating a client from us to a bank. Because we know they’ve really grown. That’s really our measure of success: they’ve become self-sustainable and are able to do this business on their own,” Mr. Uttamchandani says.
One of EFI’s biggest challenges is human capital, which is ensuring that the right people are in the right positions before they scale up. “With Esquire Financing, our tagline is ‘your partner in growth’,” says Mr. Uttamchandani, “we’re really focused on that partnership model, both with our employees and our clients.”
“It’s really about working with each other rather than for each other. We started a training based program, you stay with us for a year, and we’ll train you. With Esquire attracting the right people and maintaining them has been very easy because they believe in our vision.”
Mr. Uttamchandani claims they have done a good job in identifying these people that is why they are able to sustain and expand the business.
Mr. Uttamchandani has always been a believer in continuous learning. EFI’s CSR activities include supporting the educational programs of Gawad Kalinga (GK), called Gawad Kalinga-Pinagsama. The project provided classroom equipment, instructional materials, school supplies and instructors for communities in Pinagsama, Taguig. EFI also started a program with GK for the 5th graders called Entrepreneurship at the 5th Grade Level. EFI also donated incubators to the Philippine General Hospital.
EFI plans continue building its strength and client base. As of now, 90 % of EFI’s clients are Metro Manila-based. Over the next five years, Mr. Uttamchandani plans to expand by establishing more field offices across the country. He also plans to increase the company’s sales agent force by recruiting, hiring and training over 1,000 new agents in 2013 to cater to 50,000-100,000 new businesses. He also wants to unify SMEs in the country over the next 10 years. “The SMEs in this country don’t have a voice. The large corporations have a lot of voices even the industries have one. It’s represented by the big corporations; the small guys are too intimidated to say anything. I want to unify SMEs as a body. Create an SME association and empower them,” he shares.
In the same way that Mr. Uttamchandani believes in creating value for his clients and his people, he also believes that it is imperative to truly value what you do. This is why he tells future entrepreneurs, “Don’t work for money, work for your passion. Never go to work just to earn, go to work because you believe in what you’re doing.”