In the world of private equity, money needs to find a home and many PE firms believe they know how to choose the right one. But talk to promoters of companies that these PE firms invest into and the ask is for a clear differentiator well beyond just an ability to “provide capital.” It is here that the individuals, who may even represent a brand or a PE firm with a rich lineage, also begin to matter. It is perhaps with good reason that when the news was out that Akshay Tanna, the partner at TPG was joining KKR, Dodla Sunil Reddy, the managing director of Dodla Dairy, who has Tanna on his board, said, “for me it is always dealing with Akshay and not the brand that he represents for he brings forth attributes that just set him apart. He is amiable but also firm and just with an uncanny ability to pull everybody along.”
Coming in from TPG, “Akshay,” says Reddy, “played a crucial role in taking the company through its IPO and making a decent return (about 1X by some market estimates) and all along stood his ground on the right valuation that was fair to both the investor and the promoter and also helped in identifying and solving problems backed by clear logic and reason.”
Others in the PE world, who shared their thoughts with this writer but did not want to be named, felt the move could also help build KKR’s image in India, which some felt took a bit of a hit on the credit side but was perhaps bouncing back with changes in leadership. But then, critics apart, the road ahead does seem arduous with enough challenges in India. For instance, it is often argued that the valuations are typically high because there is not enough deal flow. Also, there is a lot of money chasing deals leaving all PE players with a mixed bag thus far. While many do look back at the COVID years as banner years, there seems a broad recognition that it is still tough to monetise investments in India. This has partly to do with the fact that there is relative lack of depth in both the strategic acquirers and also in the PE industry where a large fund could do a buyout. Though some do see winds of change wafting across the PE landscape with capital markets getting deeper with KKR’s $ 2 billion exit from Max Healthcare as a stellar example.
Some who know Tanna, feel what he may bring to the table could be those added ingredients other than capital (which to many is more of a commodity today) and be able to provide operational guidance, backed by the firm’s network and provide a partnering feel rather than the air of a heartless transaction. A Wharton alumni, with about a dozen years at TPG and
earlier at Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch, Tanna will be reporting to Gaurav Trehan, India country heat at KKR.
While how Tanna gets to leverage KKR’s different asset platforms and pools of capital within the PE needs to be seen. Be it, its flagship buyout fund, healthcare growth fund, growth tech fund, impact fund or on infrastructure, credit or real estate.
Those who know Tanna, his sister and their parents, speak of a family of well-educated straight shooters who let their work speak for them. “There is no flash here,” reminds another. Tanna, to some of them, is an avid tennis player, who grew up playing state-level tennis.
But then, with or without his skills at forehand, Tanna has managed to stay in the forefront. At 40, a young age in the PE firmament, he has already carved out a niche with several successful deals – from Dodla Dairy, Lenskart to Nykaa. If by these
he displayed the time-tested ‘young in limbs, old in judgement’ winning attributes so brilliantly articulated by the good old bard in the Merchant of Venice, then, how Tanna puts these to play now will be watched even more closely.