Boutique investment bank Equirus Capital claims to have completed close to 129 deals over 10 years with a deal value of $3 billion across private equity, M&A, structured finance and capital markets.
When one has investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala putting his faith in a venture, getting started becomes easier. That is what helped Ajay Garg start out to set up boutique investment bank Equirus Capital.
Having earlier worked with Essar Steel, it was during his stint with DSP Merrill Lynch that Ajay began looking at advisory transactions, and helped the firm set up its Private Equity Desk to cater to the growing interest shown by Private Equity funds in India.
“DSP was in the process of becoming Merrill Lynch, and the focus was clearly on large caps. Given my experience and profile of doing middle market transactions, one saw an opportunity to create a middle market investment bank. Three of us set out to set up MAPE Advisory, and helped it grow into one of the leading mid-market investment banks,” says Ajay.
Equirus, for Ajay, was an extension of the vision to create leading a mid-market investment bank which partnered mid-market firms from advisory services to investments.
Setting the bank
With seed capital from Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Ajay started Equirus Capital in 2007. Since the initial days, Equirus has sought to be one of the most admired mid-market boutique investment banks, and to that end, had an independent board and strong option plan. “Currently, close to 30 percent of the capital is held by Equirus employees as shares/options,” says Ajay.
“As we got into merchant banking, equities/derivatives broking, and Portfolio Management Services, we had to seek appropriate licenses from the regulator. As I come with a background in investment banking and have a good rapport with regulators, most of the compliances and licences were easy to get,” says Ajay.
The investment bank focuses mainly around the sectors of technology, infrastructure and real estate, life sciences, and industrials. Ajay adds that the focus has been to work with first generation, as well as established entrepreneurs across different stages of a company’s evolution, mainly in the mid-market segments.
“Like most early-stage business, it is important to manage cost as you try to win in the competitive landscape. We were lucky that in the initial stages, we got good mentors like Narayana Murthy and a strong board in Rama Iyer, Manu Parpia and Ravi Ramu, who help us shape through the initial period and create the right foundation,” says Ajay.
The numbers and the space
The team claims to have closed around 18 transactions in the last financial year. These, he adds, were a mix of mergers and acquisitions, financing private equity funding, and capital market transactions.
Ajay adds that currently, Equirus is one of the few mid-market investment banks to have a wide range of product offerings to cater to the needs of growing entrepreneurial organisations. The focus is to provide full financial advisory services to clients in the mid-market space, and develop long term relationships.
“The 10-year journey has been steady from being an advisory firm to setting up the ECM segment, Institutional Equities, and Research Desk, to starting the year-old portfolio management services,” says Ajay.
Over the last 10 years, Equirus claims to have completed close to 129 deals with a deal value of $3 billion across Private Equity, M&A, Structured Finance and Capital Markets.
Equirus Securities today is a well-known domestic institutional equity firm, covering over 100 companies in the mid-cap space.
“Equirus is at the right time, right place vis-a-vis the strong growth macro environment India enjoys. We will add other synergistic business to enable us to bring scale in inherently volatile businesses,” says Ajay.