Summit Partners, the growth equity investment firm founded in 1984, has raised more than $11 billion in capital and has provided growth equity, recapitalization and management buyout financing to over 300 growing companies across a range of industries and geographies. Summit Partners’ portfolio companies have completed nearly 125 public offerings and more than 125 strategic sales or mergers. The Boston-based firm, with a 26-year PE track record, made its debut deal in India last month by investing $30 million in Krishidhan Seeds Limited. Amit Chaturvedy, vice-president of Summit Partners, talks about the firm’s investment strategies and India office plans in an e-mail interview to VCCircle. Excerpts:-
Do you think there was a delay in Summit Partners entering the Indian PE space?India is an entrepreneurial growth market, so our growth investment strategy is a natural fit. We have been looking at the Indian market since 2008 to find the right opportunity: A rapidly growing company with a visionary management team that sees value in bringing a global, experienced growth equity investor to its Board. Krishidhan Seeds fits that profile.
What is your view on investing in India?
As an investor, you always evaluate your investment thesis and consider the risks and rewards. Investing in India is no different as compared to other countries in that sense. The risks we always consider are market risk, management risk, and execution risk.
How do you assess the current environment in India as far as investments are concerned? Has it improved much?
India seems to have recovered much faster from the financial crisis as compared to other major economies of the world. We are finding many attractive companies in this geographic market. Indian growth is broad based and localized, and this makes it a stable long-term growth story.
Regulatory and tax issues are more complex in India, as compared to what we have seen in the US and Europe. Indian regulators are working hard to streamline processes and provide more clarity in laws governing the various industry sectors.
What are your investment strategies for India?
We are focused on companies in sectors including healthcare, education, consumer products, agriculture, telecom and power. Our exit options in India are primarily public offerings and sale to another strategic/financial investor. We are growth equity investors and are equally comfortable taking minority or majority positions. We do not have plans for an Asia-specific fund. The Indian economy is a strong and resilient growth story, and it is a good market for us given our long and successful track record as growth equity investors. Our Indian investments provide a natural route for our Limited Partners to increase their exposure to this market. We are looking at companies that are seeking Rs 50-500 crore of investment.
What is the rationale behind your investment in Krishidhan Seeds?
India is one of the major agrarian economies of the world with a growing population and rising per capita income that have put significant pressure on its agricultural productivity. Krishidhan Seeds’ research-driven products increase farm productivity and offer Indian farmers a strong value proposition – which will increase as more than 125 hybrids in the pipeline are released over the next three years. We are very impressed with Krishidhan’s R&D commitment, growth trajectory, its dynamic management team, and well controlled business operations through SAP, and we look forward to a successful partnership.
In India, how many deals is Summit eyeing this year?
We recently closed our first investment in Krishidhan Seeds for $30 million. We are looking at a number of other attractive opportunities and we don’t have a specific target as to the number of investments made or capital invested.
How do you rate Indian entrepreneurs?
As a growth equity investor with 26 years of investment experience with rapidly growing and profitable businesses, Summit Partners sees a significant opportunity in the Indian market. India’s strong entrepreneurial tradition, combined with a fast-growing economy, means there are many companies that can benefit from Summit’s capital investment, strategic advice and industry expertise.
What are the major hurdles in handling portfolio firms in India?
Indian companies frequently focus on growing the top-line – and justifiably so, as many sectors in India continue to evolve. This leaves company managements with limited bandwidth to focus on corporate governance, MIS systems, and financial controls for easy data extraction and timely reporting. This issue can be addressed over time with the strong commitment of the management team.
Will Summit Partners eye investments in listed firms (PIPE deals)?
Yes, we are selectively looking at PIPE transactions in India. We are using the same investment criteria – the company should be rapidly growing, profitable and have a talented management team running the business. Our major focus area is privately held companies where we can participate at the board level, provide strategic guidance, and make a substantial positive impact to the future value of the business.
Are there plans to set up an office in India?
We have plans to establish an India office in 2011. We have a team of five investment professionals focused on Indian investments, and we plan to incrementally build on that team.