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I enjoy ambiguity, uncertainty: Renuka Ramnath on how she guided Multiples

Renuka Ramnath, the founder, MD and CEO of Multiples Alternate Asset Management talked about her journey, the lessons she learnt and why dreams matter at The Success Edition, powered by Kotak Mahindra Bank in association with YourStory.

I enjoy ambiguity, uncertainty: Renuka Ramnath on how she guided Multiples

Wednesday February 22, 2023,

6 min Read

Renuka Ramnath is one of the first women to break into the largely boys’ club of India;s private equity market. After making a mark in the finance sector, she embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey in 2009 with Multiples – a dedicated India focused private equity fund with an AUM of $2 billion.

“The three aspects that go into the foundation of building a private equity firm is knowing the person behind the show, operating with the spirit of trust through partnership, and nurturing the dream,” Renuka said at The Success Edition, an initiative of Kotak Mahindra Bank in association with YourStory.

Renuka’s Multiples is now a $2 billion firm and is looking to raise another billion this year. She credits this growth to a fantastic team, the portfolio they built, their relationship with their entrepreneurs and the reputation they built in the marketplace. The team now looks to achieve $10 billion by 2030.

Beyond these numbers and beneath the success story, however, lies Renuka’s will to forge her own journey. Right from the start, she always preferred taking the path less trodden.

Breaking the glass ceiling

The only girl in her batch, Renuka is an engineering graduate from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Mumbai. She later decided to go to the US to pursue a PhD in engineering. But her parents’ apprehension of sending an unmarried daughter abroad made her re-evaluate her options and opt for an MBA course in India. It was while doing the course that she discovered an interest in financial management, something that would allow Renuka to chart her own destiny. She realised that she could merge her engineering skills with financial concepts and create a different professional path for herself.

She then did her summer internship at ICICI Bank to further test her technical and financial skills together, and realised it is a potent combination. “I had the opportunity to build several new financial products and services at ICICI and today the route to pursue finances through engineering seems very natural to me,” she revealed. After ICICI, there was no looking back. Renuka ended up leading ICICI Venture and transforming the platform by turning it into one of the top private equity firms in India.

At ICICI Venture, she had the unquestioned trust of the company as the entire conceptualisation and scaling of the company was left to her discretion. “I had the privilege of working with more than 100 entrepreneurs very closely, and that's when I realised that intrinsically I am an entrepreneur. I enjoy dreaming, I enjoy building, I enjoy the ambiguity and uncertainty of creation and therefore when I moved away from ICICI, taking the entrepreneurial plunge was a natural thing to do,” she explained.

Profits with purpose

Renuka said that Multiples was born out of a very clear purpose that India and Indian entrepreneurs needed a long-term risk capital. “If that capital comes with deep understanding and sensitivity towards the human being behind the business and the dream they are pursuing, that is much better,” she said. Through this, she believes, they build more purposeful and valuable companies, and bring incremental long-term risk capital into the Indian entrepreneurial world.

Multiples believes in powering new possibilities, and they do that by igniting the confidence of entrepreneurs to go beyond their first imagination to eventually build a very lasting and valuable company. This can be seen in many examples at Multiples, such as Delhivery. When Multiples invested in them, they were a last mile e-commerce logistics company which was just B2C. But with time, when Multiples exited the company, Delhivery was a full-blown technology-first large logistics company delivering solutions to both B2B and B2C firms in an impeccable way and connecting people in the remotest corners of India.

“You realise that through a purposeful deployment of capital you can build a more inclusive India - you can liberate, unleash the potential of every Indian and not just those living in big cities or towns,” she explained.

The Kotak partnership

Renuka claims that she always admired Uday Kotak, Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, for the clarity and confidence he gave to entrepreneurs. She says that Multiples has been engaging with Kotak Mahindra Bank in every banking product they offer - be it foreign exchange or domestic banking like commercial banking or custodian activities.

The company sometimes also takes loans from the Kotak Mahindra bank to complete some of their transactions. “It's a very deep relationship based on humongous respect and shared values rather than just an economic bilateral engagement,” Renuka said.

Lessons along the way

Over the course of her illustrious career, Renuka holds some lessons close to her. It was while working at ICICI that she noticed that she really is in the business of engaging deeply with people to create value.

While the profit pool and understanding the competitive landscape are all very important, Renuka realised it is the entrepreneur and the team who are really creating the value. Therefore, she felt she needed to have an acute understanding of the person: the entrepreneur behind the business. She invested in honing her evaluation skills to understand the entrepreneurs, their passion, their clarity and their commitment, and also got her team to hone those skills.

The second big learning she had was that her business is a partnership business. “When you come inside a firm like Multiples, there is a partnership between the team members because you are leveraging the skills and capability, experience, wisdom, and intuition of your entire team to make a certain high quality decision,” Renuka explained. She then began to introspect into the partnership aspect and came to the conclusion that partnership translated into a practical day-to-day application simply is win-win.

“When you and I are engaged in any activity with the spirit of partnership, either both of us will swim or both of us will sink. We cannot have asymmetric payoff out of a partnership. So when I further delved deep into ‘how do you bring this in your daily life?’ I realised that the bedrock of partnership is trust,” she added.

And the final lesson is that Multiples is dealing with the dream of the entrepreneur, and dreams have emotions. So it is very important to understand that. “Therefore, how do you bring a heightened level of sensitivity to the human behind the business and thereby make the reality larger than the dream? These are my learnings, and it is so fascinating because with every passing year, you have new dreams, new entrepreneurs, new journeys but the core principle remains the same,” Renuka said.