This content is from: Home

Puri's appetite for steak and funds

When Aditya Puri returned to India in 1994 to head the start-up HDFC Bank, he was braced to forgo steak and sushi , tastes he,d acquired during a 19-year Citibank career that spanned Europe, East Asia and the Middle East. Puri shouldn,t have worried.

All that stuff's available here, says the 48-year-old connoisseur of Western cuisine.

More important to Puri's plans, Bombay's eclectic restaurant menus reflect a burgeoning Indian middle class that he has been able to target with a range of online and offline banking services. As a result, HDFC Bank, a 28 percent subsidiary of Housing Development Finance Corp., India's leading mortgage lender, has rapidly built a base of 1.4 million depositors nationwide. The bank's shares trade at some 25 times earnings , five times the norm for Indian banks.

So last month a confident Puri headed to the U.S. to promote HDFC Bank's $150 million ADR offering, despite the current bearish climate. ,In troubled times investors flee to quality,, he reasons. ,Besides, we,ve got so much upside potential. We,ve built up a 1 percent market share , not bad for five years but leaving plenty of room to grow., Institutional investors shouldn,t be surprised if they find themselves being courted over steak and sushi.