Posted on 07 September, 2020
Pankaj Raina, Managing Director, Research and Investments, Zephyr Peacock India writes for Business Line on how private equity investors create value for SMEs.
Expertise in business management and assisting founding teams in developing growth plans and strategy are among the benefits that private equity investors bring to the table.
Below is an excerpt from the post which first appeared on Business Line on 7 September 2020:
India’s economic growth has attracted significant foreign direct investments (FDI) over the past two decades. Much of this FDI consisted of investments by venture capital and private equity (PE) firms. Since January 2005, venture capital and PE firms have invested $230 billion of equity capital in India. PE investors are crucial to the success of any high growth economy. These investors put risk capital behind new business ideas and founders, which acts as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth.
In the West, PE investors typically acquire a controlling interest in companies and grow them. However, in India, many businesses are founder owned and founders insist on retaining controlling stake in their companies. Venture capital and PE (VC/PE) investors have had to customise their approach to investing in these businesses for a minority stake. Minority investments have accounted for a significant percentage of the total deal flow.
Founders have increased control and a greater role to play in governance because they generally hold majority stake in the company. Demand for PE capital continues to grow as more and more Indian businesses seek funding. However, deals with good and transparent financial reporting with strong governance mechanisms are few and far between. PE investors face increased risk from weak corporate governance in their position as minority investors.
Concerns of minority investors
In founder-controlled businesses, minority investors are concerned with the misalignment of founder-investor goals, illegal extraction of wealth, and self-dealing transactions. The most prevalent risks for minority investors are misuse of funds and diversion of capital towards personal use or low capital efficiency projects. Many of the founder-controlled companies are family-owned businesses. Often, members of the family constitute the board as well as the management teams of the company.
Many of these companies lack an effective governance structure with adequate checks and balances for conflicts of interest management, transparent decision-making, and articulated strategy to conduct business. Investors, even as board members, are not allowed to partake in decision-making, and are sometimes not privy to decisions taken by the management due to the lack of timely and transparent communication frameworks.
Further, the founders’ unwillingness to involve investors in decision-making, and dilution of their control impacts the ability of minority investors to find timely and suitable exits. Many founder-led private companies are also lackadaisical on corporate compliances.
The VC/PE industry has witnessed some high-profile instances of weak governance across sectors. Governance failures have resulted in businesses winding down, getting entangled in lengthy and expensive legal battles, reputation loss, and has not been a profitable proposition for investors. Often, such a corporate fiasco bears impact on lives and livelihoods across the value chain of the business. Other stakeholders such as regulators, employees are now demanding improved governance and transparent reporting.
For Indian investments, PE investors have introduced provisions in their investment contracts with the companies to strengthen governance systems at the companies, as well as to safeguard themselves in the event of failure. These provisions include clauses in transaction structuring, investor reserved matters, board composition, risk management, and auditors, and exit rights.
Good governance requires a thoughtful bespoke approach to develop policies and procedures by which a company operates. Corporate governance frameworks for companies include much more than shareholder rights.
Zephyr Management is a global emerging markets investment manager, specializing in the creation and management of highly focused private equity funds
Since its inception in 1994, Zephyr has sponsored and/or managed 26 investment funds in both public and private securities markets representing approximately $1.2 billion in combined commitments and assets under management
Emerging Markets Focus
The firm has initiated several private equity funds investing in several African countries, South Korea, Mexico, India, and Sri Lanka since its founding. Zephyr's funds serve medium size enterprises that are often ignored by larger private equity players. Zephyr funds provide growth capital to established companies with proven business models and sustainable competitive advantages.
Investment activities are currently focused on India, Sri Lanka and Africa.
Zephyr Peacock India
Zephyr Peacock India provides equity financing for fast growing, small to medium sized companies led by strong entrepreneurs and management teams.Read More
Emerald Sri Lanka Fund
Emerald Fund provides equity financing for fast growing, small to medium sized (SME) Sri Lankan companies led by strong entrepreneurs & management teams.Read More
Zephyr Acorn provides equity
Zephyr Acorn provides equity financing and business support to innovative early-stage companies in East Africa.Read More
Active Portfolio Support
The firm's special expertise lies in bringing global best practices to medium-sized growing companies by assisting them in conceptualizing sustainable business strategy, management development, compensation, ESG, expansion outside of their home country, capital structure and positioning for stock exchange listing or trade sale.