TO INDIA, WITH HOPE

General partner groups are regularly heading to India to sample the waters, of that there is no doubt. Buoyed perhaps by Warburg Pincus' well-documented and highly lucrative investment in telecom firm Bharti Tele-Ventures, it didn't take long for others to try following their lead.

Last month alone, Carlyle Group announced it had poached Raj Dugar from Merlion India to spearhead its new buyout operation in Mumbai, whilst 3i drafted in Anil Ahuja from JP Morgan Partners to head up an India team that will invest up to $100 million a year in the country.

But what is perhaps a little more surprising in this still fledgling private equity market is the first stirring of a domestically focused fund of funds industry. Newcomers may be knocking on the door in greater numbers, but is there yet a sufficient depth in investment experience and diversity to give fund of funds managers the confidence they need?

Switzerland's Capvent and Dubai-based Evolvence Capital appear to think so. Capvent, which recently established an office in India, is raising $250 million for co-investment in India and to invest in funds with a focus on the country. The firm is understood to have already backed two India-focused funds, one of which was reportedly the Baring India Private Equity Fund.

Meanwhile, Dubai's Evolvence has also launched a $250 million fund of funds, with over 25 per cent of capital commitments expected to come from Middle Eastern sources and the rest from the Europe and US. The Evolvence India Fund says it has identified four Indian funds for its first tranche of allocations. Sixty percent of the capital is to be invested in funds, while the remaining 40 percent has been set aside for co-investment opportunities.

In one of the world's fastest growing economies, investors are not wasting any time in positioning themselves to take advantage of future opportunities from deregulation and infrastructure development. Capvent and Evolvence may look like risk takers, but it's a risk born of careful calculation.