Ashok Mittal - There Is Only One Mantra to Success – ‘Learn and Do It Yourself’ (CEO - Prest Loans)

Ashok Mittal

There is only one mantra to success – ‘Learn and do it yourself'. It is very important that you learn every aspect of business, be it sales, risk, compliance, accounts, HR or research. Unless you do it yourself once and learn it properly, you won’t be able to lead, manage or guide the team as the team look at you for guidance and motivation.

Tell us about your background, journey and upbringing.

I was born, brought up and educated at a place called Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan. It’s an agricultural area on the border of Punjab, Haryana and Pakistan on the west side. I completed my entire education here and was a university topper and gold medalist in Bachelors of Commerce. 

Born in a middle-class family, I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant (CA) but could not pursue it due to the financial situation at that point in time. So, I joined Uco Bank in 1991 and then moved to Union Bank of India as a probationary officer in 1994; during this period, I completed my CAIIB exams and also did Masters in Banking Management, a post-graduation degree.

I was an NCC cadet and got all A, B and C certificates. I was also an NSS volunteer and used to participate in various competitions, organize training, coaching classes, arrange books for poor students and also participate in other social activities during college. 

How did you rise to the highest echelons in your career? 

I started my career with Uco Bank in 1991 as a clerk and then cleared Probationary Officer (PO) exams of BSRB and joined Union Bank of India (UBI) as a PO. I handled the foreign exchange department in UBI in various roles including at Treasury in Head Office.

After leaving UBI in 2003, I joined SSKI- Sharekhan a very well-known and growing brokerage firm as Head of the Equity Derivative desk. During that time India witnessed the setting up of new commodity trading exchanges namely NCDEX and MCX; I saw huge potential in this segment and started a commodity brokerage business and took membership in commodity exchanges. I was largely responsible for business development here and travelled to many cities to create awareness about equity derivatives (futures and options) during this time.

I joined KARVY group in 2005 and shifted to Hyderabad as Head of Commodities brokerage business to set up the entire business for them and was responsible for the entire segment. I again set up this business from scratch - setting up sales, research, risk management and expanded the business in about 250 branches across the country. 

This made me visit more than 250 locations, conduct public seminars and awareness programs, meet thousands of people dealing in all kinds of commodities be it precious metals, base metals, energy products or agriculture commodities. It also allowed me to interact with manufacturers, traders dealing in the wholesale and retail segment of commodities. Being a Country Head (akin to CEO) also gave me huge exposure to deal with customers, bankers, exchange officials, regulators, mid & large corporate entities etc. which give me insight on how to do business.

I also started the currency derivatives segment during this time and played a key role in setting up the forex broking business in Karvy. During my stint with Karvy, I got involved in their NBFC business and helped them start financing against Agri commodities. We were the pioneer in this segment and it grew very fast since the model created by us was quite unique and secure.

My entrepreneurship skills improved and I thought of starting my own business at this time; however, it needed a lot of courage and capital which I lacked at that time.

Perhaps I had become an expert in starting new businesses by then; as I once again joined a start-up and moved to Delhi to join a new Agri Finance NBFC as CEO. They wanted to start Agri commodities financing as a captive business of an equity funded warehousing company. Once again, I started the business from scratch and set up business development, credit, operations, risk management team, prepared policies and processes for the new business. I was the CEO of the commodities business of a Mumbai based brokerage firm before moving to Delhi.

Ashok Mittal

What made you start Prest Loans and how did you start it?

The last 10 years of my career as head of businesses made me learn all aspects of business as my role was more of an entrepreneur rather than of an employee. Learning from experience, my passion for entrepreneurship arose and I took a big risk for the second time (first being moving from a PSU job to private sector) and started my own business by setting up ‘Prest Loans’ a new-age tech enabled, MSME focused NBFC in February 2017.

Prest Loans provides secured and unsecured business loans to Micro SME units who are underserviced and do not have access to formal credit in India. It has been a roller coaster ride the past 4 years while servicing the MSME segment including challenges faced by pandemic Covid-19. It gives me a lot of satisfaction and a sense of contentment that not only I am able to live my passion but also serve the micro-businesses and provide employment to people.

What does your typical workday look like?

I am a workaholic by nature - always thinking about the business, new ideas to work on and improving myself by learning new things. While I need to travel a lot, I try to ensure a sleep of 7 hours to keep myself fresh. 

I do some yoga and exercise, though irregularly, read the latest news, spend some time on social media and read books. I like watching plays whenever possible. I like making tea, helping with groceries and spending time with family on weekends. 

I do ensure to call my wife, even if for a quick chat, during my workday; it brings me peace and balance. Generally, my day is quite busy, which starts early in the morning and ends at late night.

Ashok Mittal

Several global companies have come out and thrown their support behind not needing a formal education. What is your opinion about this?

To be honest, the overall percentage (%) of people running and managing businesses without formal education is quite low. You will find investors supporting IIT and IIM alumni more than anyone else.  

I have been into banking and financial services for three decades now which needs not just knowledge but professional skills too to run the business. Hence, in my opinion, based on the industry I am in and past experience, formal education is needed which teaches the basic rules of this industry. Even professional courses like CA, CS, Law are needed in this business segment.

How do you handle someone who has lied on their resume?

I give very high importance to the integrity of a person and follow a no-compromise, no tolerance rule on it irrespective of industry. However, in the financial services industry, this is the topmost criterion. 

Hence, if I find someone who has lied on their resume, I will immediately take action on it, find the truthfulness of it, the reason for not furnishing the correct information and if not satisfactory, will prefer to disassociate with such person.

At Prest Loans, we have a process of verification of all data, information, background of employees and also inform everyone up front that they should not furnish anything which is not correct.

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What are some of your typical challenges and how have they evolved over time?

While building an organization, getting the right people with vision and passion, is the most difficult challenge. You need to get people who share the same philosophy, passion, experience, knowledge, integrity and ambition to grow. 

I spend a lot of time with the key hiring to not only understand them but also make them understand more about me and the organization. I try to explain to them the responsibility and ownership of their role in the company. According to me, ESOP plays a very important role in it; that is why at Prest Loans, we have granted ESOPs to employees since the very beginning. 

Involving the team in decision making and keep them updated about all major information goes a long way in resolving any challenges or difficulties like Covid-19 or lockdown.  

Business challenges are part and parcel of life and they need to be handled and resolved based on the time, situation and available solutions.

What advice do you have for those eyeing the top job?

There is only one mantra to success – ‘Learn and do it yourself’. It is very important that you learn every aspect of business, be it sales, risk, compliance, accounts, HR or research. Unless you do it yourself once and learn it properly, you won’t be able to lead, manage or guide the team as the team look at you for guidance and motivation.

People management and compliance are the most important but most ignored areas by most managers/ senior management, while these should be given high attention.

Staying positive at difficult times and building trust-based relationships are other important factors if you want to be at the top. I have experienced that people will support you in all situations if they trust you.

Which is your favourite book and why?

I like books related to mentoring as they guide us all the way in our life. I have read many books like Tuesdays with Morrie, Who Moved My Cheese, Rich Dad Poor Dad, etc. 

However, my all-time favourite book is “Why Not…. Racing Ahead with Mentors” written by Mr Partha Sarathi Basu. This book gives a complete experience of someone who is starting his or her career and reaching the top while having ups and downs during their professional life. Any budding professional or entrepreneur must read this book.    


Ashok Mittal

Brief Bio:

Ashok Mittal, Founder & CEO - Prest Loans


Ashok is a seasoned professional having a rich experience of 30 years in Banking, Financial services. He has been a part of a Harvard Business School executive program called “Managing and Transforming Professional Service Firms”. Ashok is a gold medalist commerce graduate from M.D.S. University, Rajasthan and has done Masters in Banking Management (MBM) and CAIIB. He was the CEO of an Agri Financing NBFC prior to which he was heading commodities and currencies business and financing segment at reputed financial services companies.

He has also had the experience of working with the Union Bank of India and UCO Bank. Ashok has been a regular in business media channels for more than a decade now, providing strategic inputs while also having a strong presence & networking with print and electronic business media. He has conducted more than 200 public seminars on various financial services segments and has been an eminent speaker in many National Seminars of various organisations like PHD Chamber of commerce, FICCI, Assocham, Exchanges and ICFAI to name a few.

He has been on the Jury for Best Market Analyst Awards conducted by Zee Business for three consecutive years in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Ashok has been awarded by eminent personalities like Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Amit Shah. He is passionate about setting up and expanding businesses from scratch.

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  1. Integrity is a very important
    quality in a man .You can teach every thing to a man ,which he does not know except Integrity ,
    I think, Its quality of his Sanskar."

  2. Integrity is a very important
    quality in a man .You can teach every thing to a man ,which he does not know except Integrity ,
    I think, Its quality of his Sanskar."
    Rajesh Jaiswal.