Kashmiri scribe who blew and book(ed) India’s biggest banking failure

Corporate collapses may not always make cliffhanger, but a newsman from Kashmir produces a story straight from a financial thriller by uncovering the rot deep within YES Bank’s glittering success story.

As a whistler-blower reporter, Furquan Moharkan, 27, earlier covered the contemporary India’s biggest bank failure. For his The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds, the ex-banker used his primary sources to write what many described as the failure of ‘Make in India’.

The author hailing from Srinagar serves as much as a cautionary tale as it exposes the chink in India’s armour against financial chaos. Moharkan shares some book insights in a candid chat with Free Press Kashmir.

How did this book journey begin?

Well, I had blown the whistle on YES Bank earlier and was constantly reporting on it. On March 5, 2020, the bank was bailed out from the brink of collapse. It was modern India’s biggest banking failure.

On March 9, a senior editor from one of the other publications suggested me to write a book on it. The editor suggested that publishers would want it, if I pitch it to them.

As luck would’ve it, within minutes after this call, Shreya Punj, Commissioning Editor of Penguin Random House got in touch with me with a book offer.

Let’s go back to your YES Bank reporting days. What happened?

The red flags about the mess at YES Bank were in the public domain as early as 2015. But no one batted an eye. In the bank’s failure, it was the 16.18 lakh retail shareholders – making up the majority shareholder group of the bank [before the bailout] – who suffered the most.

So, this banking failure needed a bit critical scrutiny.

Having covered the bank closely, I knew this story was worth knowing for its aggrieved shareholders. They had a lot of questions: What happened to the bank that showed the promise? What exactly happened on March 5, 2020? How did the actions of one man, and the inactions of others, cause a systemic threat to the Indian financial system? What are the lessons we learn from this saga? I wanted to bring out all this in the book.
Since all my information was from primary sources, I was writing an inside account of the story I had broken – so it was a huge advantage.

Before talking more on the book, take us through your story.

Well, I’m a business journalist looking after banking, financial markets, corporates, and financial market regulators with Deccan Herald.

Before journalism, I was an investment banker tracking asset managers, banks, insurance companies, and hedge funds. My investment banking stint was a result of campus placement at Christ University Bangalore, where I did my Bachelors in Business Administration.

Though my family is settled in Bangalore, we originally hail from Srinagar. A part of my schooling was in Delhi Public School, Srinagar.

Alright, so, is The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds about one man’s actions?

Well, the book meticulously maps Rana Kapoor’s career as a banker, charting his meteoric rise, his mercurial personality, the lavish lifestyle and the unravelling of it all. His story runs parallel with that of the fourth largest private bank in India.

As the bank’s MD and co-founder, Kapoor was given free hand before Reserve Bank of India (RBI) forced him to step down.

Before that, there were legal battles going on over the control of the bank twice. Kapoor lost both those bids.

But then, banking is such a niche subject. Do you apprehend that the book won’t be accessible to a large section of readers?

Remember 2010? Many believed that TV journalism has killed print journalism at that time. A decade later, news channels are reinventing themselves.

So, you might see saturation when you watch excess TV or say use your cellphone too much. But, for millenniums, any form of reading has never seen any saturation. Let’s read it, to believe it.


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