His sober demeanour and staid office might mask the excitement of what he does, but Nikhil Kaushik is actually a bit like a hunter stalking game.
Armed with several degrees, an analytical mind and a nose for investments, he scours the jungle of corporate India, looking for companies to pour funds into — before anyone else spots them.
Kaushik, 28, works for BTS Investment Advisors, a Swiss private equity firm. Unlike small shareholders, these firms buy significant stake in companies and use their financial might to influence the company’s management with a view to making it more profitable.
They then wait for the right time to sell out, a stage when they think they will get the best returns on their initial investment. This is equity that is not traded on public stock exchange.
Kaushik, who grew up and studied in Bangalore, Chennai and Pondicherry, returned from the US in 2003 because he saw that India was changing and felt it was the place to be in.
So he worked with US giant GE in Bangalore for about two years, then helped with his father-in-law’s pharmaceuticals business for a year, before moving on to get his business degree (his wife now takes care of the business). At the end of his stint at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, he knew he wanted to be in the private equity field. So there was only one place to go.
“If you want to be in private equity, you have to be in Mumbai,” he said. So that’s where he landed up in mid-2007, and then got a job with BTS last September. Today, he’s just where he wants to be.
He enjoys all the number crunching that he has to do, which is one-third of working time, and scouting for opportunities for his firm. “You get to learn a lot from the many enthusiastic and diverse entrepreneurs coming up with interesting ideas,” he said. “You also get to travel a lot.”
But not everything about the job is hunky-dory. The working day is long, and when so much money is at stake, the job can be stressful.
To manage his stress levels, Kaushik does not miss his daily round of jogging. Moreover, it helps that unlike many Mumbaikars, he does not have to commute far: he lives and works in Bandra. He likes to relax on weekends by playing Scrabble and watching movies. Occasionally, he hangs out at pubs with his friends.
But one thing nags him: although there are a lot of opportunities in his field in India, there is not enough talent. The flipside is that this presents a huge opportunity for young people looking for adventure in the Wild West of private equity.