An IIM-A gold medalist, a seven-year-long stint at Citibank followed by co-founding India’s leading institutional brokerage firm, First Global, Devina Mehra’s illustrious career path definitely provides enough material for a blockbuster thriller. First Global, like many other things in the early 1990s, is a baby of liberalisation. Mehra recalls the 1993 Budget presentation by the then finance minister Manmohan Singh, which opened up the market for foreign institutional investors. This triggered her to give up her job at Citibank and work towards setting up a brokerage house. With the market for equity research being relatively untapped at that point and the Bombay Stock Exchange selling membership at a relatively lower price, the environment was conducive for Mehra and her husband Shankar Sharma to start First Global. “Shankar had left Citi by then and was working as a sub-broker. Till then the price for BSE membership was prohibitive around Rs.2 crore and it was a relatively exclusive club. But when BSE announced a membership at Rs.55 lakh, Shankar and I decided to apply for it,” recalls Mehra. Even in the mid-1990s, research coverage was relatively unknown, and Mehra believes the entire process was a learning experience for everyone in the market.
While Rs.55 lakh seemed like a relatively lower sum, it still was formidable for the duo to shell out. Mehra describes the next few years of her entrepreneurial journey as being a major work-life imbalance, requiring unwavering commitment of her time and mental acumen towards making the venture successful. She says it’s a price anyone aspiring for extraordinary success in their venture has to be willing to pay. While there was no real demarcation between work and home, Mehra admits that she wouldn’t have been able to embark on the entrepreneurial journey without Shankar being part of it. In the initial years they relied on their intellectual capital, given the limited financial resources at their disposal. The limited resou