The news of Chrys Capital Founder & CEO Ashish Dhawan quitting private equity after 2012 came as a ‘shock’ to many. The poster boy of Indian private equity, who started his firm in 1999, when India Inc was unaware of private equity investments, has seen the entire cycle of PE-fundraising, investment and exit through the last decade.
Dhawan, who raised venture capital fund in late 1990s lost his steps during the dotcom bubble burst and the first few investments were washed away. However, he made a tremendous comeback after Wipro bought his portfolio company, Spectramind, for $93 million in 2002, where ChrysCap’s $10-million investment increased six times to $60 million. This deal alone returned the value of ChrysCap’s maiden fund, of $64 million.
By 2005, riding on the spectacle of stellar exits like Spectramind, Dhawan was four funds stronger and managing a billion bucks – a growth that no independent fund could then conceive. It also gave him the courage to pioneer private investments in public enterprises (PIPE) when it was an alien concept — for investors and Indian promoters alike.
Since 2008, a year after he raised his fifth mega fund of $1.25 billion, he was more of a hedge fund manager, making pure-play public investments in Infosys, HCL Technologies or Amtek Auto. Luckily for him, the bumps on the way got forgotten, thanks to his expertise in earning high returns for investors through patient exits.
Last year, ChrysCap did one of the biggest exits through open market after selling shares of Infosys for $400 million. In 2010, it made a return of Rs 60 crore after selling its 13 per cent stake in Hathway, which it had bought in 2007. In Suzlon Energy, ChrysCap invested Rs 100 crore and made a reported Rs 1,300 crore.
Before ChrysCap, Dhawan was with GP Investments, a $1-billion private equity fund in Brazil. Dhawan, who received an MBA from the Harvard Business School, also worked at McCown De Leeuw & Co, and Mergers Group at Wasserstein Perella.
After spending more than a decade in the industry, Dhawan has decided to exit the active private equity role and is ready for his second innings as a philanthropist.