26/11 and the birth of an asset management firm in India

A look at how investment management firm Brookfield Asset Management focused on building operational capability in India for five years, cut its first deal in 2014, and in a pandemic year managed to deploy $11.5 billion in the country. For early access to the full Cover Story, subscribe to Forbes India

Pooja Sarkar
Published: Jun 21, 2021 01:59:32 PM IST
Updated: Jun 24, 2021 12:30:59 PM IST

(Left to right) Nawal Saini, Dev Santani, Ankur Gupta, Aditya Joshi and Arpit Agarwal of Brookfield at their office in Powai, Mumbai. Photo by Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India

The first time Anuj Ranjan set foot in India was on November 23, 2008. While he is Indian by origin, Ranjan was born and raised in Canada, and flew in from Toronto to build Canadian investment management firm Brookfield Asset Management Inc’s India business. Once he landed in Mumbai, Ranjan went straight to the Trident (Oberoi) hotel at Nariman Point and checked in. Three days later, the hotel was the target of the 26/11 terrorist attack, Mumbai’s worst nightmare till date. Ranjan received worried calls from his offices in New York and Toronto, giving him the option to leave India. But he decided to against it.

“It was, in a way, a sort of homage to the fact that this was where we had landed, this is where we had these events. It didn't scare us off from investing in the country. And on the back of that, of course, we grew to be what we are today, (with) $20 billion invested in India,” says Ranjan, managing partner at the firm. In October last year, he was elevated as the global head of business development, head of Europe and Asia-Pacific private equity, and CEO of South Asia and the Middle East for Brookfield Asset Management.

While Ranjan now spends his time between the Dubai and London offices, he cannot stop gushing about his firms’s $20 billion India investments since officially setting up an office in the country in 2009 with three employees (including him). And over half of it (nearly $11.5 billion) was deployed in 2020 alone, amid the raging pandemic. Brookfield is an NYSE- and Toronto-listed firm, with approximately $600 billion in assets under management across real estate, infrastructure, renewable power, private equity, and credit.

In India, while it started with investments in real estate and small infrastructure bets, Brookfield has deployed nearly $10.5 billion under its infrastructure asset class in the last three years. It went all out and acquired Reliance Group’s East West Gas Pipeline business for $1.9 billion. And if that wasn’t enough, in August 2020, BAM, through Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P, acquired 100 percent stake in the telecom tower (Reliance-Jio Towers) business of Reliance Industries. Brookfield and its institutional partners have invested $7.6 billion in the asset.

In India, Brookfield has dabbled in large deals across asset heavy sectors, but in 2020 it made its first bet in pure play private equity. Led by Aditya Joshi who joined as the managing director for private equity at the firm, Brookfield has already deployed $1.5 billion across two deals over the last year or so.

As Brookfield readies itself for bigger deals, Ranjan believes the firm is now ready to tackle almost any sector, and that too by cutting the largest cheques. As Ranjan jettisons into his next meeting, before leaving he says, “Just the fact that India, which did not exist for Brookfield in 2014 and only had a small office in a hotel in 2009, is now approaching half our size in Canada, where the company started its operations, is pretty phenomenal.”

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