Ajay Relan quits CVCI

A pioneer of Citigroup's India PE business in the mid-1990s has left to set up his own firm and to raise a fund targeting $750 million.

Ajay Relan, the head of Citi Venture Capital International's Indian operations (CVCI India), has quit the firm and set up a new firm, CX Partners. Relan plans to raise $750 million for a fund targeting investments in India.

He is joined by Jayanta Basu, who also quit CVCI India, where he was a vice president.

“We're going to do pretty much what we've done in the past,” Relan said. He added that CX Partners' first fund will provide growth capital to Indian companies. The fund is expected to close by November or December of this year.

Relan said he was reluctant to classify his fund as having a particular sector focus. However, he said, it would broadly invest in consumer-driven businesses.

CX Partners has already established an office in Delhi and has hired a third partner as well, Amit Bhatiani, a portfolio manager at US hedge fund Duma Capital. At press time, the firm was close to hiring another partner from the Indian investment banking industry, Relan said.

CX Partners has also brought in an analyst and is looking to recruit one more. It will also be appointing a chief financial officer. The firm is looking to establish a second office in Mumbai.

Relan pioneered CVCI's Indian business following its inception in 1995 and has been with the firm for 13 years, prior to making the decision to go it alone.

Asked about the timing his of his move, he said: “Even though the fundraising environment was better about two years back, I wasn't ready. But for a year or so, there has been this strong entrepreneurial drive. I couldn't wait for six or nine months to get this done.”

CVCI, meanwhile, has appointed PR Srinivasan as its India head. In his new role, he reports to Dipak Rastogi, chief executive officer of the firm. Srinivasan has been with CVCI since 2002.

CVCI has invested more than $1 billion in India to date. Past deals include investments in Sharekhan, a retail stock broking firm; Suzlon Energy, a wind turbine manufacturer; You Telecom, a broadband internet service provider; Emaar MGF, a real estate development joint venture of Dubai's Emaar Properties and India's MGF Development; and Subhash Projects, an engineering and construction company.