Thursday, July 30, 2009

Right time to start investing: Vishakha Mulye, ICICI Venture MD

Mulye banks on domestic investors to raise money before approaching international markets

Vishakha Mulye, 40, speaks in a measured tone, but with the quiet assurance of someone who knows her onions.

Just three months into her job as the managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Venture, one of India’s largest private equity firms, Mulye’s biggest challenge is the burden of expectations – first, she replaced the high profile Renuka Ramnath who steered the firm for over eight years; second, the market condition for raising money is hugely challenging; and third, she has had to re-shape the organisation and, in the process, let some people move on.

In her first interview after taking charge, Mulye, a chartered accountant who joined the ICICI Group 16 years ago, shrugged off the so-called burden. “The external environment is coming back on track and we have strategies in place to take the firm forward,” she said, declining to comment on her predecessor’s projections of ICICI Venture managing a corpus of $10 billion by 2010.

On real estate, Mulye said she was more interested in the residential side of it – affordable and urban housing in Tier I cities and the firm was already in advanced stages of negotiations with several companies.

Commercial real estate, she said, would still take some time to come back on track due to oversupply and deceleration in demand.

The firm already has a well established real estate practice, which manages a three-year-old $550-million fund, which is yet to reach its maturity phase in terms of value.

She, however, felt that this was “the right time to start investing” as the stretched valuations of the past were becoming more realistic. “A few years ago, everything people touched turned into gold. Now, people have become more realistic. That gives us a lot of good opportunities to invest,” she said.
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