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IIFL PE fund buys eye-care chain co-founded by former Vasan exec
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IIFL Asset Management Ltd said on Monday that it has acquired a majority stake in Infigo Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd, marking the fourth major private equity transaction in the eye-care segment this year.

The asset management firm, which is investing through its IIFL India Private Equity Fund, said in a statement that it will extend up to Rs 70 crore ($10 million) in multiple tranches to build over 20 centres. 

Infigo is promoted by Shridhar Thakur, former chief operating officer of eye-care chain Vasan Healthcare, and Anil Kamath, former managing director at Wockhardt Hospitals. 

The company currently has four eye-care hospitals and two 3D-eye clinics in Mumbai. These centres are essentially boutique hospitals providing doctor consultation and diagnostics using high-end equipment. The eye-care chain aims to open 15 centres within the next year in Maharashtra as it seeks to focus on the western region initially.

"In a country where most eye-care practices are individually-run and often lack protocols or standards, there is an opportunity to create a pan-India franchise of speciality eye-care centres," said Prashasta Seth, senior managing partner of IIFL Asset Management. “The current gap in demand and supply and increasing consumer preference for branded chains presents a unique opportunity.”

IIFL India Private Equity Fund, which is a close-ended Category-II Alternative Investment Fund registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), was launched last year. The fund focuses on professional entrepreneurs in sectors such as financial services, consumer, healthcare and technology.

In October last year, the fund agreed to invest Rs 100 crore ($13.6 million then) in Tamil Nadu-based Kadaieshwar Homefin Pvt. Ltd, also known as KE Housing Finance, which was yet to start operations at the time.

KE Housing Finance was founded by C Ilango, former managing director and chief executive of mortgage lender Can Fin Homes.

IIFL India Private Equity Fund had also invested in global industrial analytics firm Neewee Analytics Pvt. Ltd earlier this year. 

Deals in the segment

India’s eye-care segment has once again attracted private equity funding after a prolonged lull.

Earlier this month, Disha Medical Services Pvt. Ltd, an eye-care chain focused on affordable treatment in underserved markets under the brand Drishti, raised $4 million in its Series C round of funding.

In May, Mahindra Partners, the private equity arm of diversified Mahindra Group, invested Rs 206.5 crore (around $30 million) in New Delhi-based eye-care chain Centre for Sight. This deal had also paved the way for the full exit of venture capital firm Matrix Partners India. 

In February, VCCircle reported that Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings had invested Rs 270 crore ($38 million) in Dr Agarwal’s Health Care.

A recent VCCircle analysis of the eye-care segment showed that the collective growth in net sales of six players (five investor-backed chains and one not backed by external investor) slowed to 8.2% for the financial year ended 2017-18 from 14% and 13.3% in the previous two years.

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