Kartik Parija, currently the senior advisor with SME-focused PE firm Zephyr Peacock India, is stepping down after over a five-year stint. Parija was the co-founder of Zephyr Peacock (part of Zephyr Management, L.P, a global private equity and marketable securities firm) along with Mukul Gulati, who has now assumed the overall leadership at the Bangalore-based firm.

Parija has had an interesting career starting as an engineer with space agency NASA in California and later co-founding an e-commerce transaction processing firm in India. He has spent around 11 years in the investing business, working with Washington DC area based early and mid stage venture capital fund Toucan Capital. He then worked with Ventureast Fund Advisors, one of India's earliest VC firms as an Investment Manager.  After this, he co-founded Zephyr Peacock where he was the managing director till earlier this year. He helped the firm raise two funds and make six investments since then.

In an interview with VCCircle, Parija talks about his career, exit and future plans. Excerpts:--

We hear that you are planning to quit Zephyr Peacock Management?

Yes, I will be leaving Zephyr Peacock at the end of 2010. It has been a wonderful five-and-a-half years since I co-founded the fund and the founder tag makes this all the more emotional. However, I believe this decision and the timing is right for me for several reasons, the most   important being that I feel that need to be independent again.

You have been an entrepreneur before turning an investor. Any plans to take a plunge back into entrepreneurship?

I started in the VC/PE business right at the bottom about 11 years ago where I began as an analyst in a first time fund in the US, and learnt on the job via some great mentorship. Of this time, the last 7 years I have been living and investing in India and been part of new or emerging teams. So the investing business for me has been a entrepreneurial journey right through, which has always helped me to personally connect to the thousands of entrepreneurs whom I have met   when they have looked to raise capital from funds I have been involved with.

So, what are your future plans?

My future plans are not set. As of now there is neither a new fund idea or an operating role I am considering seriously. I have given myself a few months to consider several options, but what I am really looking forward to is spending more than the usual time I get with my family. Coincidentally I turned 35 today, so have been fortunate to get an early start in this exciting business of investing, especially in India, so I believe a few months spent thinking about the next step should not be the end of the world.

When did you transition from MD to the role of an advisor?

A few months ago I transitioned from a full time partner to a senior advisor at Zephyr Peacock as part of this change. I have spent the last few months primarily in portfolio monitoring and making sure things go as smoothly as possible. I feel fortunate that several portfolio companies have valued my contribution and asked me to continue my relationship in an independent or advisory capacity. I have already become an independent director on the Boards of Metro Telworks and publicly listed Time Technoplast and look forward to spending time with them as they continue to grow.

Is your transition from Zephyr complete?

I am very happy to leave Zephyr Peacock keeping intact the strong professional and personal friendships with the team. This has been an easier transition as both sides gave this enough time and have been very understanding. I will always be grateful to Zephyr for providing me the platform to become a full fledged general partner leading investments in high growth Indian SMEs.

Zephyr Peacock is currently investing out of its second fund and by the time I leave, Fund II be more than 70% committed after fees and expenses. So naturally the team is planning a third fund in 2011 and therefore the timing is just right for me to go find my next destination, considering my desire to be more independent. My co-founder and old friend Mukul Gulati has taken overall leadership of Zephyr Peacock India and he has a great team working with him to continue to grow the franchise.

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