Express Towers was nothing short of Mount Everest for us those days. I used to look at the building in 2000, thinking we would never be able to afford it. Until 2000, we were still in that tiny 500-sq feet office.
I truly felt on top of the world sitting on the 15th floor of the Express Tower office. We had thrown a big party that evening, invited clients and friends and opened up the office. Drinks flew freely, the music was in full blow, tube lights were off, candlelights on. 15,000 sq ft of space, an entire floor to ourselves, the sea view — oh, my god! It was surreal! We had arrived. The clients felt we had scaled up. It was not cheap though — we were paying about Rs.15 lakh a month at the rate of Rs.100 per sq ft, as opposed to Rs.1.5 lakh four years ago. I had goosebumps thinking about that — could we really justify it?
It’s never been a one-way street though. At Edelweiss, growth has always come in spurts, bringing along challenges. In 2004, when we got to know that our franchisee in Anand had stolen shares worth Rs.2 crore from clients, there was pandemonium. I didn’t know what hit us. No one did. The amount was huge. We argued it was not our problem — if the clients handed over the demat slips to the broker, and the broker ran away with the shares, it’s their problem.
But I was enraged because right from the Prime days, I was very clear that we would never lose money because of poor risk controls. I still remember the early days. We used to sit together on the last Saturday of the month and track all the shares — those were the days when every single broker would have some lost shares at the end of the year — all lost in transit.
Everyone laughed when I coaxed broker Prakash Shah and went to the trading ring every day for a whole week to understand the system — undha badla, contango, ring system, vandha — it was fascinating but it was unbelievable that the whole system was so inefficient. We did so many changes at the back office after that. Our front office and back o