By noon last Tuesday the whispers and chatters at No 27, Bandra Kurla Complex, Kotak Mahindra Bank’s headquarters, were starting to get louder. News reports gave it away that billionaire Uday Kotak’s elder son, Jay Kotak, may not be his successor at the fourth largest private bank in India.

“It didn’t surprise us, nor was it a shock because we weren’t sure if Jay Kotak was in the race like it was being projected,” says an employee of the bank. But the word doing the rounds in media circles was that a PR firm was given that mandate of readying up Jay Kotak’s profile for a press release. KVS Manian, President – Corporate, Institutional & Investment Banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank, in his interview to Bloomberg, said: “Jay is still young. He will have to work his way up on merit”.

But that doesn’t rule him out as a candidate to the corner offer. The 32-year-old holds the position of Vice-President at Kotak 811, the super app or neo bank launched by the lender in 2017.

In May 2022, when he addressed the media for the first time and introduced as co-founder of Kotak 811, he was seen as the successor to Uday Kotak, who is to step down in December next year. This sparked some debates, but people who know Jay Kotak say it’s because of who he is.

He’d come across as just another employee with no flamboyance or asking for favours using his privilege. “I worked at the bank for over 15 years and if I wasn’t introduced to him as Uday Kotak’s son, I won’t have known who he is,” said a former senior executive of the bank. His association with the bank goes back to over a decade when Jay was in his early 20s.

As a college student, he would drop into the bank after college and spend time to understand its operations. When he joined the bank as a full-time employee in its investment banking arm in 2017 (the year when Kotak 811 was launched), after completing MBA from Harvard Business School, the move didn’t surprise people.

He is said to have interned with all top honchos at Kotak Group, starting with Sanjeev Prasad, co-head, Kotak Institutional Equities, and his last assignment was with Shanti Ekambaram, who spearheads the bank’s retail business. He has also had a short stint at the media venture owned by the billionaire banker as part of his family trust.

But here’s something very interesting. Although Jay Kotak has worked across business and subsidiaries of Kotak Mahindra Bank, he maintains strict boundaries between work and personal life. There are barely a handful of people at the bank who would know his personal side or have an outside-the-office connect with him.

While he’s known be a very friendly, he won’t come across as chatty. “He kept it like that from the start, and he was always clear that he’s here [bank] only for work. His willingness to learn and experiment is remarkable, and I’ve not seen him won’t fuss over anything,” said a former senior executive of the bank.

When asked if Jay would be upset at not being seen as an immediate successor to his father, the former banker said “he’d be relieved”. “He respects the leadership at the bank and would not want to by-pass the layers,” he added. In August, Jay was rumoured to have got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, the model-turned-actress, Aditi Arya, in Paris.

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