The Ajay Piramal-led Piramal Enterprises is considering a re-entry into the domestic formulations business, eight years after selling its portfolio to Abbott. (Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
The Ajay Piramal-led Piramal Enterprises is considering a re-entry into the domestic formulations business, eight years after selling its portfolio to Abbott. (Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

Ace entrepreneurs in India start second innings on familiar pitches

  • Darshan Patel, who sold Paras Pharma in 2006, has made a come back with Vini Cosmetics, while Crompton Greaves's Gautam Thapar is looking to re-enter the consumer space
  • Even Mukesh Ambani came back to telecom with Reliance Jio after 11 years. Ajay Piramal seeks to do something similar in pharma

Mumbai: Darshan Patel was 45 when he sold Paras Pharmaceutical Ltd to Actis Capital for $43 million in 2006. He wanted to retire with all the money he received, but the feeling of sitting idle scared him.

In 2010, Patel founded a new company, Vini Cosmetics, the maker of Fogg perfumes.

According to Nielsen, Fogg is one of the top brands in the men’s perfume category. The product is giving a tough fight to former market leaders, including Hindustan Unilever’s Axe and McNROE Consumer Products Pvt. Ltd’s Wild Stone.

After selling Paras Pharma in 2006, Darshan Patel founded in 2010 Vini Cosmetics, the maker of Fogg perfumes.
After selling Paras Pharma in 2006, Darshan Patel founded in 2010 Vini Cosmetics, the maker of Fogg perfumes.

Today, Patel is an established entrepreneur in his second coming, a feat that was rare a few years ago, but is now gaining momentum. For instance, it took Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, a good 11 years to make a comeback in the telecom space—a business he had successfully built during his father Dhirubhai Ambani’s reign, but had to give up after a bitter family split.

Naya venture to mujhe karna hi tha (I had to start a new business)," Patel said in a phone interview.

Patel was the man behind re-positioning cult products, which included pain reliever Moov, hair serum Livon, Dermicool prickly heat powder, and Set Wet hair gel, for Paras Pharmaceutical Ltd.

His family owned business was later acquired by UK-based Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc in 2010 for 3,260 crore.

There are many like Patel who have exited their businesses successfully only to come back in a similar space to do something even bigger.

Yogesh Mahansaria, the former chief executive of Alliance Tire Co., first sold a part of his stake in the company to private equity firm KKR and Co. for $522 million, and subsequently sold the entire business to Japanese tyre maker Yokohama Rubber Co. for $1.2 billion in 2016, before finally exiting in 2017. In December, Mahansaria founded a two-wheeler tyre manufacturing company. His family entered a joint venture with Swedish engineering company Trelleborg, where the former will hold a 76% stake.

Piramal Group, which sold its pharmaceutical solution business to US’s Abbott Laboratories, is also making a comeback in the healthcare space.

The Ajay Piramal-led Piramal Enterprises Ltd is considering a re-entry into the domestic formulations business, eight years after selling its portfolio to Abbott. Piramal sold its domestic formulations business, which manufactured, marketed and sold branded pharmaceutical products in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in finished form, for $3.72 billion in 2010.

Gautam Thapar, who sold his entire stake in Crompton Greaves’ consumer business, is also set to re-enter in the consumer space.
Gautam Thapar, who sold his entire stake in Crompton Greaves’ consumer business, is also set to re-enter in the consumer space.

Similarly, Gautam Thapar, who sold his entire 34.37% stake to Temasek Holdings, among others, in Crompton Greaves’ consumer business, is also set to re-enter in the consumer space. Email queries to Piramal and Crompton spokespeople did not elicit any response till press time.

Of course, the entrepreneurs are making a comeback after the non-compete period ended. Piramal’s non-compete ended in September 2018.

For instance, the agreement between Mukesh Ambani and his younger brother, Anil, prevented the former from launching Reliance Jio earlier. Mahansaria, however, is able to enter the tyre manufacturing business because earlier he used to manufacture off-road tyres and not two-wheeler tyres.

Serial entrepreneurs usually feel “they have a lot of energy" and a desire to build something rather than taking a retirement route, according to Amit Tandon, chief executive of proxy advisory firm Institutional Investors Advisory Services (IiAS).

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