THE MUTUAL FUND INDUSTRY has been growing by leaps and bounds. Assets under management crossed ₹40.49 lakh crore as on November 30, 2022, a five-fold increase in the last 10 years.

While different stakeholders deserve credit, the real stars are the fund managers, the ones who take vital calls on behalf of retail investors. And topping the list of equity fund managers in the Fortune India study this year is Aniruddha Naha of PGIM Mutual Fund.

Naha manages four equity schemes — PGIM India Midcap Opportunities Fund and PGIM India Flexi Cap Fund (since April 5, 2018), and PGIM India Small Cap Fund and PGIM India Balanced Advantage Fund (since July 29, 2021 and February 4, 2021, respectively). While the first two have given 19% and 15.64% returns, respectively, during his tenure compared to 13% by their benchmarks, the other two have generated 8% each. "Our focus is on companies with strong cash flows and clean balance sheets. We don't like firms with debt. There shouldn't be corporate governance issues. These are our safety parameters," says Naha.

Neelesh Surana, CIO, Mirae Asset Investment Managers, has grabbed the second spot this year. A 15-year veteran with Mirae Asset Mutual Fund, Surana managed an average AUM of ₹33,000 crore in the last one year across two schemes — Mirae Asset Emerging Bluechip and Mirae Asset Tax Saver. Both schemes outperformed their benchmarks under his tenure, gaining 22.7% and 19.7%, respectively. "Equities are simple business-like investments, if we understand the power of compounding. Our investment philosophy is focused on taking a disciplined long-term approach in quality businesses, run by people of integrity, vision and competence," says Surana.

Shridatta Bhandwaldar follows Surana in the rankings. Bhandwaldar managed an average AUM of ₹29,422 crore in the last one year across four schemes — Canara Robeco Bluechip Equity, Canara Robeco Equity Taxsaver, Canara Robeco Emerging Eqs and Canara Robeco Flexi Cap.

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