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Merril ramps up India operations

business Updated: Apr 02, 2008 21:41 IST
Vyas Mohan
Vyas Mohan
Hindustan Times
Merrill Lynch & Co

Leading US-based investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co is planning to increase its focus and ramp up Indian operations. "We would like to recruit more people, particularly at the service level of our private client business," the newly appointed India president of DSP Merrill Lynch, Kevan Watts, said here on Wednesday.

With global financial giants flocking into India to get the best of the high growth rate in the country, Watts, one of the top officials of Merrill Lynch, seems to be the best pick to help Merrill fight is new competitors.

"India has been in my blood. I am British and my father was in India in 1940s. I have visited India many times. We are getting serious competition in India now and we will need to respond to it," said a 57-year old Watts.

In his 27-year long stint with Merrill Lynch, Watts has been on the board of DSP Merrill Lynch for the last ten years and has headed Merrill's Asia Pacific operations. Above all, Watts and DSP Merrill Lynch Chairman Hemendra Kothari are good friends.

They have been good acquaintances since early 90s when an enthused Kothari making a case for the Indian GDP growth rate taking off steeply from the traditional Hindu rate of growth caught Watts' attention. That was before Merrill Lynch invested in DSP.

"It was a quick decision from my point of view. It took little time to decide," Watts recalls Merrill's decision to invest in DSP.

By 1997, discussing business and formulating strategies, their mere acquaintance blossomed into strong friendship.

"We became good friends in 1997. India is very important and we want to upgrade our services further here. And that is why Kevan is here. It took some time for me to convince him to come to India," said Hemendra Kothari.

Watts is excited about his new assignment.

"My day job will be to take care of India operations and night job will be to take care of the rest of the region. I think this is the best job I have had in Merrill in the last 27 years," Watts says.