Ajay Relan, one of the pioneers of private equity investing in India, died late Friday night.
An alumni of IIM-Ahmedabad, 67-year-old Relan was serving as the managing partner at homegrown private equity fund Xponentia Capital, which he co-founded in 2018. Prior to founding Xponentia, Relan was the founder and managing partner at CX Partners, which raised a $550 million India Fund in 2009. Before CX Partners, he founded the India business of Citigroup Venture Capital International (“CVCI”) in 1996.
Relan was a member of the CVCI team which raised two global emerging market funds -$1.5 billion in 2005 and $4.3 billion in 2007. He was also on the board of HT Media--the parent firm of Mosaic Media and publisher of VCCircle and Mint.
PE executives across the business and political spectrum are mourning his loss.
“Ajay was a legend. A fine human being who lived life on his own terms. A man who took the road less travelled. A big brother of sorts who never threw his weight around. I will miss Ajay. But never forget him. And can’t thank him enough,” said Ashish Dhawan, founder at ChrysCapital, in a LinkedIn obituary.
“Today is a black day in the history of Indian private equity and venture capital industry in India, The untimely death of Ajay Relan, one of the industry pioneers, has left a deep void,” Sumeet Narang, co-founder of Samara Capital, said in a Linkedin post on Friday evening.
“Ajay started the VC business in mid 90s and private equity in late 90s, which set the foundation for the industry in India. Many of his proteges are leaders in the investment business today,” Narang’s post added.
Relan was instrumental in building a team of operating partners to help his portfolio with domain expertise during CX days. Relan also had onboarded top managers like Jayanta Basu and Vivek Chhachhi to help him build one of the leading mid-market PE funds in India.
Over his investment career, he has led and been involved in numerous deals with an aggregate invested capital in excess of $ 2 billion.
In 2015, Relan had decided to retire from the industry and passed on the day-to-day operations of CX Partners to his cofounder Jayanta Basu. “I don’t want to hold up a position for so many years when there is enough talent in the firm,” Relan had told VCCircle in 2015.
But Relan returned to the PE business in 2018 with two other industry veterans, founding Xponentia Capital.
Harsh Singhal, Managing Director of CDPQ India said, "A pioneer of our industry has left us," adding that Relan inspired many talented people to join the industry.
JM Trivedi, the former India head of private equity firm Actis, said Relan had a keen eye for a multibagger who was willing to take risks for the same. "I remember his bets on Lupin and Suzlon which turned out to be a huge success for CVC".
He was a generous person and his generosity extends beyond his lifespan as Relan had volunteered to donate his body and organs, Rajeev Kalra, the Managing Director and head of India at the Rohatyn Group said.