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Harjit Bhatia, former managing partner and head of Credit Suisse Private Equity Asia, and a few of his former colleagues are raising a fund with a focus on India and South East Asia. Bhatia will lead the new Hong Kong-based investment firm as the Chairman & the CEO. Bhatia's former colleagues and ex-partners at Credit Suisse PE Asia Soma Ghoshal Dhar and Hemang Raja too are part of this venture. The team worked together at Credit Suisse till July 30, 2010 focussing on Asia portfolio.

“We have two mandates now - managing the current portfolio of Credit Suisse PE Asia, and going forward raising a fund providing flexible capital to mid-market growth companies in India and South East Asia,” Harjit Bhatia, Chairman & CEO, Asia Growth Capital Advisors told VCCircle.

Without divulging the details of the corpus that Asia Growth Capital was targeting, Bhatia said, they have not gone into a formal fundraising mode yet and have only held some confidential discussion with investors till now.

“Our focus will be India and South East Asia instead of being a pan-Asia fund,” Bhatia added.

Elaborating on the strategy, he said, the private equity fund will come on board as “value added” investors as opposed to financial investors. “We will provide capital to mid- market companies which are growing very fast and take them to the next level of growth,” Bhatia said.

While largely being sector-agnostic, the investment firm will look at investments in infrastructure enablers, pharmaceuticals, cleantech/alternative energy, consumers goods and services.

Bhatia added that they will follow a very proprietary deal sourcing network, outside of tier I cities. “Our sourcing channels are very different from a lot of PE firms,” he added.

Before Credit Suisse Asia PE, Bhatia, an industry veteran, served as managing director of GE Capital Financial Services for Asia Pacific region since September 1997. He was responsible for overseeing GE Capital's direct investment in the Asia Pacific region. He also served as Managing Director of Capital Markets for India at General Electric Capital Corp from September 1994 to August 1997.

Few of the investments that Bhatia led at GE were  Patni Computer Systems and TCS, being the first institutional investor in the companies, even before they got listed. From Credit Suisse PE Asia, the team invested in companies like Shree Ganesh Jewellery and Tecpro Systems, which recently got listed.

South East Asia is seeing huge interest as a lot of PE firms are raising funds for this region. Recently, Navis Capital, a firm specialising in making private equity investments in growth-oriented buyouts in South and Southeast Asia with $3 billion under its management, recently closed its sixth fund at $1.2 billion.

“Indonesia is the third biggest population in the world. Indonesia is still 10-12 years behind India in the regulatory framework but it’s a huge economy which has not been exploited fully. As the economies go through their next stage of economic development and political freedom, they become much more interesting,” Bhatia added.

Bhatia and his team join a host of independents or “investpreneurs” who are currently on the road to raise money.  The growing trend of funds, led by star GPs who choose to go solo, comes at a time when limited partners are increasingly looking at independent fund managers with proven track records.

A number of private equity fund managers, who were working in captive funds or in overseas funds, have started their own ventures since 2009 in India. Few like Ajay Relan-led CX Partners and Renuka Ramnath's Multiples, who started out early, have successfully raised funds but the environment continues to remain challenging. While CX Partners closed the fund at $515 million in July, Multiples had first close at $250 million and expects final close at $500 million in December. Also, LPs are looking to back strong teams rather than just individuals. In line with that, several independent managers have started building up teams.

Former partner at Baring Private Equity Partners India N. ‘Subbu’ Subramaniam has roped in two partners for MCap Fund Advisors - Citigroup's chief risk officer Rahul Gupta and former DTZ director Abhilash Lal. Pravi Capital, founded by former ICICI Venture veterans Jayanta Banerjee, Anand Vyas and Sunay Mathure, have added Lehman's Tapan Gandhi as Principal - Investments. Pravi is targeting a fund of $200 million.

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