Sanjeev Asthana, who quit as the president and chief executive of Reliance Retail in May this
year, is planning to launch a Rs 460 crores private equity fund to invest in food and agriculture. Called I-Farm Venture Advisors, the fund would invest in small and medium enterprises. Asthana is the main promoter and he’s trying to get well-known corporates on board as co-promoters. The fund would also tap institutional investors such as banks, non-banking financial companies and corporates. It may be noted that Asthana was a part of a band of high-profile executives who joined Reliance Retail in 2006 when the business was being set up.
It might invest in food processing companies and retail services firms. A former senior executive at RPG’s Spencer Retail is also one of the top executives of the fund. According to some sources, Chandra P Singh, a former senior executive at RPG’s Spencer Retail, would be one of the top executives of Asthana’s fund. As of now, the fund is on the road raising capital and hopes to make an announcement in the next one month.
Meanwhile, private equity seems to be becoming the new calling for retail executives. Besides Asthana, sources added, Reliance Retail's whole time director Raghu Pillai is also being approached by PE firms to join in advisory or operating roles. Earlier this year it was announced that Pillai would leave Reliance Retail byt the middle of 2010. Interestingly, another top Reliance Retail executive, Gunender Kapur, was appointed by global buyout major TPG Capital as a senior advisor to assist on investments in the consumer and retail sectors in India. Kapur is also expected to play a major role in helping TPG steer Vishal Retail if the deal comes through.