Wearing the CEO’s hat at investing wheel

Wearing the CEO’s hat at investing wheel

The glass on promoter-turned-private equity investor Anil Singhvi’s front door has a simple “Ican" etched into its window and leads to an office with no great view. The Singhvi firm’s utilitarian exterior matches the unique private equity or PE model he has built in the last year.

Singhvi opened the doors of Ican Investments Advisors Ltd for PE investing in April, and has since invested $500 million (Rs2,025 crore) in 25 public firms through secondary market operations and so-called PIPE (private investments in public equity) deals. Among the key investments are$20 million in Camlin Fine Chemicals Ltd and $7 million in Navneet Publications (India) Ltd. Two other investments—in brand and retail—have not been disclosed.

Singhvi works to understand a business, gets to know the promoters and then helps place money (Ican’s or others’) when the business need arises. “You should be able to see the business the way the promoter sees the business," he says. Singhvi prefers not to take a board seat himself.

“When I was receiving capital, I was very clear that if you want to be on the board, then you will have only that much information that is provided to the board," he says.

He says he spends up to 10 days a quarter, working with the team (not just the promoter) on all aspects of thebusiness. And so his preference for the sectors he has experience in—infrastructure and manufacturing.

This investment style has the signature of a man who sat on the other side of the PE investment table. He was at Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd for 21 years as chief financial officer and then chief executive. Gujarat Ambuja received $180 million from Government of Singapore Investment Corp. Pte Ltd and American International Group Inc. in 2000, and$150 million from Warburg Pincus Llc. in 2001—the last investment done without any signed papers.

Singhvi continues to bank on his relationships. More than a decade after their $20 million secondary market investment in Gujarat Ambuja, Notz Stucki and Cie became his backer and provide him unlimited access to their $20 billion under management, unlike most PE funds that work with a defined corpus.

He works with a seven-person team he brought from Gujarat Ambuja, who have been by his side for 15 years. He says nothing is more important than people you trust and “gel with".

Singhvi’s extensive background in operations is unusual for a PE fund manager, and there are few investors like him that name manufacturing as a focus area though there have been infrastructure investment specialists: Realterm FCH Logistics Advisors Pvt. Ltd and Askar Capital to namejust two.

Singhvi is confident that his dealmaking style will gel with promoters, which will be important as deals become more competitive here. “Most of them (other investors) do not have a mindset of an owner of the business," he says, explaining the difference.