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MIT alumnus to head Murthy’s Catamaran

MIT alumnus to head Murthy’s Catamaran
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First Published: Tue, Jan 19 2010. 09 50 PM IST

Second innings? People familiar with Murthy’s hands-on style of functioning say he would be actively involved in his new venture. Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint
Second innings? People familiar with Murthy’s hands-on style of functioning say he would be actively involved in his new venture. Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint
Updated: Tue, Jan 19 2010. 09 50 PM IST
Bangalore: Infosys Technologies Ltd’s chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has chosen Arjun Ramegowda Narayanswamy, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alumnus in his late 20s, to steer his Rs600 crore venture capital fund Catamaran Investments Pvt. Ltd, people familiar with the development said.
Narayanswamy, who studied computer science engineering at MIT, is already working to build a team of half a dozen people who will get Catamaran off to a start, said the people, who didn’t want to be named.
Catamaran, named after an Indian sailboat with two parallel hulls known for its lightness and agility, has been started by Murthy to support start-ups. The Infosys founder and his wife sold part of their holdings in Infosys last year to start the fund, joining Murthy’s peer and Wipro Ltd chairman Azim Premji, who has a similar fund.
Second innings? People familiar with Murthy’s hands-on style of functioning say he would be actively involved in his new venture. Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint
Murthy’s chosen candidate to head Catamaran spent one-and-a-half years with Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital Llc. Prior to that he started a venture in the mobile communication space during a stint as an entrepreneur.
Narayanswamy could not immediately be reached for comment. An email sent to Murthy’s office had not elicited a response at press time.
One person familiar with the situation said Narayanswamy has known Murthy’s two children for some years now.
The assignment is certain to keep Narayanswamy in the limelight because the launch of Catamaran and Murthy’s selection of the team to lead his venture capital vehicle is being closely tracked by his peers and the financial community.
A venture capital industry veteran, who declined to be named, said venture investing is a team effort requiring various complementary skills such as deal-making capabilities, negotiating, deal sourcing and structuring. The right combination is what makes a fund click, he said. 
People familiar with Murthy’s hands-on style of functioning say he would spend time and energy on his new venture, although it’s not clear if Catamaran will indeed be his second active innings after the creation of Infosys, India’s second largest computer services firm.
One person did not rule out the possibility of other Murthy family members being on the investment committee while the fund will be run by an independent professional team.
Catamaran will be a sector-agnostic fund, and, according to people familiar with the initiative, the fund has already started weighing investment proposals and zeroed in on an initial transaction. The fund will look at areas such as healthcare, retail and technology.
Murthy in October sold shares worth Rs174.3 crore in Infosys to set up Catamaran. A month later, his wife Sudha Murthy sold shares worth Rs430 crore to back her husband’s plan. In 1981, it was Sudha Murthy’s savings of Rs10,000 that had gone towards the founding of Infosys. 
“The venture capital fund will encourage and support young entrepreneurs having brilliant business ideas,” according to a statement released by the firm earlier. “The fund will primarily invest in India and may on a case-to-case basis consider investing overseas.”
Industry trackers say Catamaran may be more focused on the growth capital requirements of running start-ups rather than seeding ideas. “At $129 million (around Rs590 crore), it is not a small VC (venture capital) fund, and managing the fund may not allow too many seed funding deals,” said a partner at another venture capital fund, who requested anonymity.
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First Published: Tue, Jan 19 2010. 09 50 PM IST