From BITS Pilani to Trifecta Capital: A Journey of Innovation, Collaboration, and Entrepreneurial Spirit
Nilesh Kothari, an alumnus of BITS (Pilani, ‘86) the co-founder of Trifecta Capital established in 2014, is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 30 years of expertise in financial management, global investing, and scaling tech businesses. With an extensive career that includes roles as Managing Director at Accenture plc and contributions to AV Birla Group, JM Financial Group, and the Hero Group, Nilesh has spearheaded successful exits like Zenta's acquisition by Accenture plc. His proficiency extends to structured finance, ratings, and debt fund management at ICRA and JM Mutual Fund. Alongside his professional achievements, Nilesh is an avid traveler and a passionate enthusiast of rock music and cinema.
What are some of your most cherished memories from your time at BITS Pilani that significantly shaped your personal or professional life?
My time at BITS Pilani was marked by a rich campus life where simplicity was key. We bonded over activities like watching 'Chitrahaar' on the single TV in the common room and shared meals in the mess. BITS Pilani inherently trusted its students to be responsible and fostered independent thinking. Attendance wasn’t compulsory, assessment was continuous, students could choose several courses of their interest outside of the core program, enroll in a dual degree program, attend classes of Professors of their choice, take memberships of clubs they were interested in, run the student mess, etc. The first two years’ courses were common across all A-degree programs. This allowed us to interact with students from other disciplines and understand and learn about all the different engineering fields. Oasis, our annual cultural festival, was the country's largest and spread over three days. It was a mega event that required immaculate planning, coordination, and execution, including marketing and sponsorships. So did Apogee. Practice School allowed us to see what professional life would look like and readied us for what to expect. All these unique experiences, including a world-class curriculum, taught me community living, problem-solving, independent thinking, and resourcefulness, which have been cornerstones in my personal and professional life.
How did your experiences at BITS Pilani influence or contribute to your journey, eventually leading to the establishment of Trifecta Capital?
The entrepreneurial spirit and innovative mindset nurtured at BITS Pilani were critical in laying the groundwork for Trifecta Capital. The university's environment, focusing on community, mutual support, and independent thinking, fostered a culture where entrepreneurial ventures were not just dreams but tangible goals. It instilled in me the importance of innovation and adaptability, essential qualities in entrepreneurship. At Trifecta Capital, we don't just recruit outstanding individuals; we create a space where they can continuously learn, innovate, and flourish. By empowering every team member, from the most junior analyst to the senior ranks, to think autonomously and bring forward recommendations, we embody the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that is integral to my experience at BITS Pilani. This ethos has been a driving force behind establishing and growing Trifecta Capital.
In what specific ways do you believe your Master of Management Studies in Engineering and Management from BITS Pilani has contributed to your success in the finance and tech industry?
The interdisciplinary approach of my Master’s program at BITS Pilani gave me a dual perspective on both technical and managerial fronts. This unique education has been instrumental in shaping my professional journey and helping me understand the intricacies of the startups we work with at Trifecta Capital. The educational foundation honed my ability to make astute investment decisions and create financial solutions tailored to the tech industry.
Could you share any particular experiences or mentors from your time at BITS Pilani that left a lasting impact on your career path or personal development?
The learning culture at BITS Pilani, which emphasizes a hands-on and practical approach, has had a profound impact. While I did not have any specific mentors, the collective influence of the faculty, students, alumni, and the environment has certainly shaped my professional philosophy.
What challenges did you face in transitioning from an academic environment to becoming an entrepreneur, and how did BITS Pilani's teachings or ethos help you navigate these challenges?
Transitioning to full-time entrepreneurship was challenging, but BITS Pilani’s focus on practical application and adaptability has always kept me entrepreneurial, even in my corporate journey. BITS Pilani was a training ground that tempered my resilience and tenacity. The relentless schedule of lectures, tutorials, workshops, club activities, etc., instilled in me the ability to hustle round-the-clock. This frenetic pace and the need to constantly adapt (and not to forget the extreme temperatures from 0 degrees to 50 degrees) equipped me with a unique problem-solving approach, grit, and confidence necessary to navigate through the most challenging and uncertain situations of the startup world.
How has your experience at BITS Pilani influenced your approach to scaling tech businesses and financial management within the startup ecosystem?
My approach to scaling tech businesses and managing finances in the startup ecosystem has been greatly influenced by the community and collaborative values I embraced at BITS Pilani, along with an emphasis on innovation and collective effort. The ethos of BITS Pilani ingrained in me the ability to solve problems at scale. Several aspects of the campus life, including Oasis (the cultural festival which was entirely organized and executed by the students), and Practice School, provided hands-on experience in management within a microcosm of the larger business world, teaching me the importance of strategic planning, teamwork, and problem-solving — all of which have been critical components in my journey so far. While my education at BITS Pilani did help me build large businesses and manage finances, my professional training later on in large Indian business groups like AV Birla Group, JM Financial Group, Hero Group, and Accenture also helped immensely.
What unique aspects or values from your BITS Pilani days have you infused into Trifecta Capital's philosophy or operational approach?
At Trifecta Capital, we have integrated the BITS Pilani values of community, collaboration, and fostering innovation. These values echo BITS Pilani's spirit and manifest in our work ethic and how we interact with our stakeholders. We hire the best talent, including from BITS Pilani and allow them to explore, experiment, learn, and grow. We champion independent thought and cultivate an ownership mindset from day zero. Even the junior analyst in the Firm is encouraged to think independently, make recommendations, and provide opinions. We encourage all employees to work on cross-functional tasks/ assignments. This enables them to be empathetic to their colleagues and gives them the opportunity for self-development and growth.
We got to know your keen interest in travel, rock music, and cinema. Amidst your successful career, how do you manage to balance your professional commitments with your interests?
Maintaining a balance between professional commitments and personal interests requires a matter of discipline, a skill sharpened at BITS Pilani, where rigorous academics and personal pursuits went hand-in-hand. I consciously dedicate time to my passions, which are not mere diversions but sources of rejuvenation. These activities provide me with fresh perspectives and a creative recharge that fuels my professional endeavors, ensuring that I bring renewed energy and innovative ideas to the table at Trifecta Capital.
Based on your journey, what advice would you offer to current students at BITS Pilani aspiring to excel in the fields of finance, entrepreneurship, or tech?
To BITS Pilani students, I'd say: capitalize on the multidisciplinary and collaborative learning environment. Seek practical experiences, build your network, forge long-lasting friendships, stay agile in the face of change, and commit to lifelong learning. Your time at BITS is a foundation for success—use it wisely. BITS Alumni are not only very successful, there is a sense of shared values friendship, and camaraderie, ready to support you. Engage with it, draw from its wisdom, and contribute to it, for within this network lies a wellspring of opportunity that can elevate your aspirations in any sphere of life.
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