After over four years at the helm, UBS Warburg's country head for India, Ajay Sondhi, is joining Kotak Mahindra as group president - institutions and, vice chairman and managing director of Kotak Mahindra Capital, the joint venture with Goldman Sachs in which the latter has a 25% stake.

Commenting on the appointment Richard Gnodde, president, Goldman Sachs (Asia) says, "I'm delighted that a banker of Ajay's proven capabilities has joined our joint venture. Our partner, Kotak Mahindra, already has the premier banking and securities franchise in India and Ajay's appointment will only strengthen it further to take advantage of growing opportunities with India's world class technology companies and the government as it privatizes state-owned industries."

Sondhi has a challenging task cut out for him in the coming year, especially in M&A. The Indian government is expected to come out with some big-ticket privatizations in the current fiscal year ending March 2003. So far this year, Kotak has been sole financial advisor to the government its largest privatization of 2002 for car-maker Maruti Udyog. However, it has lost to fierce rivals DSP Merrill Lynch and JM Morgan Stanley on key M&A transactions such as the ICICI-ICICI Bank merger, Reliance-Reliance Petroleum merger and privatisation of VSNL.

Sondhi will also be a director on the board of parent company, Kotak Mahindra Finance, which aims to convert itself into a commercial bank by the end of the current financial year and has already received in-principle approval from the Reserve Bank of India. Prior to his stint with UBS Warburg, Sondhi worked with Barclays/BZW as group CEO for India and has also been employed by Salomon Brothers, Hong Kong and Citibank, India. In total, he has 20 years experience in the banking industry.