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Spice Group's Modi plans shifting base to India

July 26, 2013 16:35 IST

Fourteen years after he stepped out of the country, Bhupendra Kumar Modi - once known as ‘Joint Venture Modi’ - is planning to base his $2-billion Spice Group in New Delhi.

This time, India will be the operational headquarters for his entire business, spread across Indonesia in the east to Ivory Coast in the west, or ‘I2I’ as Modi calls it. These are all similar emerging markets with 3.5 billion population where a lot of Indians have migrated over the years.

“I2I is the geography where the future business would be, and I believe, we can take a leading role in the region,” said Modi. While Delhi would become the base for Modi’s businesses across 20 countries in the region, Singapore will continue to be his “home”, as he is a citizen of Singapore.

“We are relaunching Spice as a smart group, with four key business verticals - healthcare, education, entertainment and finance - besides our mobility business, with latest technology being the back-bone,” said Modi, chairman of Spice Global. At present, mobility is the biggest business vertical for Spice. While the investment activities will be driven from Singapore, operations will be looked after from India and some key executives will be based out of India and others will be spread across the region.

Modi, who is among the 26 aspirants for a banking licence, believes his Smart Global Ventures will get the licence. “We want to operate in a smarter way. We intend to take banking to all the villages in India wherever there will be 3G mobile services. Money from non-resident Indians should flow into the rural villages of India so that there can be real inclusive growth. We need to empower Indian villages,” said Modi.

He added he has already received commitments of investments of more than $100 million from NRIs. “Not just physical branches, banking should be made virtual with the help of latest technology and efficient use of technology reduces operational costs.”

Modi believes he will get more investors for the banking and finance business once he receives the licence and he is open to diluting his stake in the company as required. “We will establish a smart global bank, way ahead of others,” he said. The company has already set up a core team for its potential bank. Spice might also look at other financial services in future. The company has already been approached by a few insurance companies asking if Spice would buy them out.

“We won’t start from the zero. We can always acquire a business and restructure it as needed,” said Modi. The company has majority control in Wall Street Finance, a non-banking finance company dealing with foreign exchange and money remittance. It plans to invest about Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) in businesses such as asset management, private equity and fixed income retail products.

Spice Global is also in process of establishing a 1,000-bed super speciality hospital at an estimated investment of Rs 1,400 crore (Rs 14 billion) in phases at Saket in Delhi by 2016. Spice Global, which has already tied up with Qualcomm to venture into the mobile healthcare business, intend to offer mobile healthcare in India. India will be the operational headquarter for Modi’s entire business, spread from Indonesia in the east to Ivory Coast in the west.

While the investment activities will be driven from Singapore, operations will be looked after from India and some key executives will be based out of here. Modi brought heavyweights such as Xerox, Olivetti, Guardian, Continental and Telstra to India before liberalisation began in 1991.

Sounak Mitra in New Delhi