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Mashelkar to lead Mukesh Ambani's PE initiative

Last updated on: July 8, 2010 18:43 IST

Mashelkar to lead Mukesh Ambani's PE initiative

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P B Jayakumar & Arijit Barman in Mumbai

Raghunath A Mashelkar, a leading scientist and for many years chief of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, is getting ready to wear a new hat - that of a private equity fund manager.

He will lead a private equity initiative of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, sources familiar with the developments told Business Standard. Ambani, the richest Indian, is likely to get involved in the project in his personal capacity.

It is still not clear to what extent RIL as a corporate entity will be involved or whether it will be housed under other Reliance group ventures like Reliance Foundation or Reliance Innovation Council.

Sources said the mandate of the fund is to invest in next-generation technologies and innovations, and nurture entrepreneurs. The corpus of the fund could not be verified.

When asked, Mashelkar said: "I cannot comment on the subject."

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The association of Mashelkar and Mukesh Ambani is not new. After retiring as the director-general of CSIR, he joined RIL as an independent member of the board. He is also chairman of the Reliance Innovation Council.

The Council was floated by Mukesh Ambani two years earlier, to bring the best scientists and Nobel laureates from various parts of the world to interact and co-operate with RIL's research and development initiatives.

Besides Ambani and Mashelkar, the membership comprised people such as the late C K Prahalad, George Whitesides of Harvard University, Nobel laureates Jean-Marie Lehn and Robert Grubbs, and Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University.

RIL has also invested heavily in the Reliance Innovation Leadership Centre in Pune and in Reliance Research and Technology Centre, planned with a floor space of more than half a million square feet in Navi Mumbai. RRTC is to act as a hub for the research centres already operating at various manufacturing locations.

Both initiatives are to support the business of Reliance by harnessing cutting-edge, futuristic but practical science, technology and innovation initiatives from within and outside the organisation.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Reliance Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that handles educational, health and other corporate social responsibility activities of the group. Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani, is chairperson. It is also planning to set up one of the largest universities in the world.

Ambani is no stranger to the private equity business. His privately held company, Reliance Life Sciences, had in April 2007 teamed with MPM Capital, one of the world's largest healthcare funds from the US.

In his personal capcity, Ambani was to co-invest in the $650 million MPM BioVentures IV fund for investment opportunities in emerging biotech ventures. So far, the fund has not made any investment in India.

"The MPM Capital-Reliance Life Science strategic alliance brings about a new framework for fostering innovation by synergising enterprise and discovery capabilities outside India with people and development competencies in India. With MPM, we will look in the US and locally for co-investment opportunities," Ambani had said, while announcing the alliance.

Reliance Industries, say investment banking sources, as part of their treasury operations, had also invested in Axis Bank Private Equity in 2008.


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