Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Four entrepreneurs who sold their businesses to turn investors


Four entrepreneurs who sold their businesses to turn investors


Being investor is a way of managing wealth



They have built and sold big business. And now, they are using the payoffs from those big exits, marrying it with their wealth of experience, to help others build new businesses.

For Ronnie Screwvala, Rakesh Malhotra, and Amit and Arihant Patni, being active investors is as much a passion as it is a way of managing their sizeable wealth.

In the way they are doing it, three distinct traits bind these entrepreneurs who have made big exits in recent times and turned active investors.

How They Are Investing There's nothing passive about their investing style. 

They floated own vehicles to manage wealth



In pic: Ronnie Screwvala and his Secretary Zenobia.

Rather than route their investment through secondary vehicles like mutual funds, they are floating their own primary vehicles, even appointing professionals to manage it.

Take Screwvala, who sold his stake in UTV to Walt Disney for Rs 2,000 crore.

In order to manage his investments, Screwvala set up a 'family office' — a professional team managing the wealth of a family — and appointed Amit Banka to manage it.

While a family office is a self-contained and self-serving entity, Amit Patni and Arihant Patni are keen to broaden the scope of their investing.

So, besides a family office, they have set up a venture capital (VC) fund, which will be managed by them but which will also solicit contributions from other high net worth individuals.

Funding allows to back a suite of businesses




In pic: Rakesh Malhotra (centre)

"Some family offices are now setting up a fund structure to channelise their private equity investments," says Richa Karpe, cofounder and executive director, Altamount Capital Management, a Mumbai-based firm that manages several family offices.

"In some cases, they are also structuring in a way to attract other LPs (limited partners, or investors in a fund) as well."

Amit and Arihant Patni set up Nirvana Ventures as a VC fund, in May 2011, after their family exited the IT business by selling Patni Computers to iGate.

The three founder-brothers — Gajendra (their father), Narendra and Ashok Patni — realised $1.2 billion (about Rs 6,500 crore) from the sale.

The share of Gajendra and his family was Rs 900 crore, some of which has since been channelled into Nirvana Ventures.

According to Amit Patni, co-founder and chairman of Nirvana, a VC fund let them back a suite of businesses, rather than build just one from the ground up.

Also, adds Arihant, co-founder and director, Nirvana: "We wanted to establish a thirdparty fund to be run by professionals and are looking at raising money from external investors in Southeast Asia, Japan, US and India."

They hope to raise $75 million by the end of 2013, with the first closure of the fund expected in two months.

Hedge fund to invest later



In pic: Arihant Patni

Also planned is a hedge fund to invest in derivatives and direct investments in companies in the data analytics space.

Where They Are Investing In the kind of businesses they are choosing to back, all three profiled here demonstrate a strong connect to the emerging landscape.

So, their chosen areas are start-ups and growth sectors like technology, agri, healthcare and consumer.

"We want to back entrepreneurs with new-age ideas and build a platform for innovation," says Amit Patni.

Nirvana, which is targeting a five- to 10-fold return, has made five investments, with a focus on the Internet and digital space.

Technology and consumer-driven businesses are the two focus areas for Delhibased Rakesh Malhotra, who founded Luminous Power Technology, best known for its invertors.

In June 2011, he sold 74% of his stake to Schneider Electric for Rs 1,400 crore.

Three months later, he directed $40 million (about Rs 200 crore) to set up Ncubate Capital, a VC fund managed by him, along with a team.

Ncubate has made two investments so far. The first one was Nevis Networks (an IT company).

Investors are also involved with businesses



In pic: Amit Patni

The second, the name and details of which he declined to reveal, is in the consumer durables space.

A similar pattern of investments is visible in Unilazer Ventures, a holding company set by a decade ago by Screwvala and converted into a family office last year after the UTV sale.

It has invested in an IT-ITES company called OnContract.com and INI Farms, an export-oriented horticulture company that specialises in pomegranates, selling under the brand name Kimaye.

Giving capital to portfolio companies is just the first engagement.

They act as mentors, and work closely with their portfolio companies on operational, strategic and governance issues.

"Our value add is to help scale new ventures and build a brand," says Screwvala.

Pankaj Khandelwal, chairman and managing director of INI Farms, says Screwvala spends around two to three hours with him every month.

Screwvala's team is helping INI with legal structuring and branding. "Ronnie and his team keep pushing me to think about the organisation's long-term strategy for the next three years," says Khandelwal.

"I tend to get bogged by daily operations."

"We have active participation at the board level, business level and operational level," says Screwvala, founder and advisor, investment strategy, Unilazer.

Share network of contacts



In pic: Rakesh Malhotra

"It becomes a more participative approach compared to a more passive approach through a fund."

Malhotra, who spends a couple of hours every week on calls with his portfolio companies, is taking a similar approach with Nevis Networks, a company that provides Internet and network security solutions.

He has been helping Nevis make senior-management hires by sharing his network of contacts.

He is also helping the company sort out its distribution structure and increase reach.

"The company has the technology, but is still commercialising its business," says Malhotra.

Malhotra relates to their circumstances and challenges. "They are going through the same situation I have been through long ago," he says.

"Being an entrepreneur, my approach as an investor is different from a financial investor.

I am more involved in the company's operational issues." Amit Patni sits on the board of his investee companies and spends one day every month mentoring.

"We are also syncing our investees with other investors in our networks to take their companies to the next level," says Arihant Patni. 


Source : 
Ahona Ghosh, ET Bureau

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