Renuka Ramnath may quit ICICI Venture

The head of India’s largest and oldest private equity firm is likely to soon end her eight-year reign, reportedly to launch her own firm.

Renuka Ramnath, the managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Venture, is likely to quit the firm.

There has been “no official resignation”, a source close to the development said. “She has been thinking of it, but whether she’s taken a final decision is still not clear. She’s more likely to quit,” the source added.

A clearer picture should emerge when ICICI Venture’s board meets on Monday. The latest development follows two months of Indian media speculation over Ramnath’s future. When such reports first surfaced in February, the firm denied it as mere speculation.

Ramnath is likely to raise her own private equity fund with a couple of her colleagues at ICICI Venture, according to India’s Economic Times. The paper also suggests that Renuka's decision to quit the firm was sparked by ICICI Bank's move to appoint Chanda Kochhar as its chief operating officer from 1 May.

Ramnath has been heading ICICI Venture since 2001, a role she assumed following the merger of ICICI Eco-Net with ICICI Venture. Prior to that, she was the managing director of ICICI Eco-Net, where she headed the bank’s e-commerce initiatives.

Ramnath has been with the firm’s parent company ICICI Bank since 1986, when she began her career at the merchant banking division. She then headed the corporate finance and equities businesses of ICICI Securities, an investment banking joint venture between ICICI and JPMorgan. In 1997, Ramnath returned to the bank to set up a structured finance business.

If Ramnath does depart the firm, her loss will be significant, for ICICI Venture is currently in the market for a $1.2 billion private equity fund, the amount targeted for which has already been reduced from $1.5 billion owing to a difficult fundraising environment.

Under her leadership, ICICI Venture went from being a firm that indulged only in venture investing to one that currently pursues growth capital, buyout, real estate and mezzanine strategies as well. The firm manages assets of about $2.5 billion.

An ICICI official said that Ramnath is still heading the firm and has not handed in her resignation, but declined to comment further.