Ved Prakash Arya, who had set up Milestone Capital four years ago after successfully sketching a career in the retail sector, passed away after he met with a freak accident on Thursday morning. Toasted as one of the youngest and brightest names in the retail space who switched over full time to the fund management business in 2007, the 41-year-old is survived by wife and two children.

Incidentally, this is the second death in the private equity industry in the last 10 days. On the morning of August 15, Mayukh Mitter, senior vice-president at Government of Singapore Investment Corp or GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, died of a heart attack. Mitter, based out of Singapore, was with the investment firm for 11 years. His responsibilities included making PE investments with a focus on Asia, particularly Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea.

Under Arya’s able leadership, Milestone Capital scaled up quickly to become a prominent domestic private equity firm, with assets under management of nearly $1 billion. He also struck a few joint ventures, including one with IL&FS Investment Managers and another with Religare Venture Capital.

However, Arya did face certain setbacks recently. On the one hand, Milestone Capital could not see through a planned public issue and withdrew its prospectus earlier this year. Also, Milestone’s fund joint venture with scam-tainted Money Matters Financial Services came unstuck due to its partner being accused of bribing senior officials of public sector financial institutions for arranging corporate loans. Then again, Milestone Religare, another of its JVs, had witnessed some top management flight.

Arya, who used to take part in Mumbai half-marathons, had set up a fairly young top management team at Milestone with most key executives in their early 40s, while bringing in experience in the boardroom. It is to be seen whether the board elevates one of the existing team members to Arya’s position or brings in an outsider to lead the firm.

An engineering graduate from the University of Rajasthan and an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad, Arya had spent a year in ESSEC, France, doing research work. He had also completed an Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School.

Earlier, he was the COO and director (operations) at Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd, and one of the key persons driving Pantaloon Group’s Real Estate Venture Fund, Kshitij & Horizon. He also helped set up Globus Store Pvt Ltd for the Rajan Raheja Group in 1998 and was its CEO till March, 2004. Arya was also the founder-director of the Retailers Association of India. A regular speaker at industry events including VCCircle Investment Forums, he will be missed by the retail industry and the investment community alike.

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