The demand for senior professionals in M&A and strategy roles is exploding

Earlier this week, Piramal Enterprises Ltd. appointed the former Global Private Equity Head for India at KKR Rupen Jhaveri as the new Group President, responsible for business development, strategy, M&A, capital allocation and corporate finance.

Jhaveri, who spent 13 years at KKR and was involved in multiple marquee transactions, will help Piramal build on its strong foundation in the alternative business.

Like Jhaveri, in the past 6-12 months, more than two dozen financial professionals working with private equity or venture capital funds, investment banks, Big Four professional services firms, and others have held positions in companies in be aggressive with their inorganic growth plans. Executive search firms said the demand for senior executives (directors and partners) in M&A and strategy roles at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated disruptions in all sectors and large corporations and startups are affected, increased by 30-40% has responded to the changes through mergers, consolidations and new investments.

“In the last six months, the demand for senior executives in strategy, project management and M&A has increased tremendously – especially after the second wave of the pandemic subsided,” said Munira Loliwala, AVP Engineering Staffing & RPO Solutions, Teamlease Digital.

Recent changes include Puneet Renjhen, who moved from Avendus Capital as Head M&A to Mahindra Group, Pranay Shetty, who joined Sharechat as Head of Corporate Development at BNP Paribas, Niraj Sangharajka, who joined Allcargo Logistics from KPMG, Meetali Jain, Head of Corporate Development at Cars24, who came from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kunal Swarup, who joined Zomato from Kotak Investment Banking as Head of Corporate Development, Ashish Mukkirwar, who joined Glenmark Pharmaceuticals as Group VP Strategy from Moelis & Co , according to data from senior search firm Native.

The speed-to-market strategy has made M&A one of the most popular business strategies for corporations and is expected to gain momentum in the coming year.

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“Demand for such executive talent is increasing by 30%,” said K Sudarshan, Managing Director of EMA Partners India. “Strategy pros are always in demand, but what we’ve seen over the past six months is a multiple increase in mandates from both large established companies and well-funded startups looking for a bigger game,” he added. Companies either woo each other or are looking for experienced professionals in the field of the Big Fours (global consulting firms), investment banks and corporate finance.

2021 marked a turning point for the startup industry – not just in terms of record capital raising, but also in the way industry leaders accelerated their gear shifts and inorganic strategies. “Given the exponential valuation growth and large inflow of capital, startups were able to use their cash and stock currencies to buy other companies for up-front cash or stock swaps,” said Karan Sharma, executive director and co-head, Digital & Technology, Avendus- Capital city.

A recent report by Bain & Co states that the nature of deal-making has changed from previous years, with executives making “scope” deals – acquisitions outside of a company’s core business – and “capability” deals – making acquisitions a new skill – complete. Up to 40% of deals fell into these categories this year.

“The increased activity in the deal market has created a need for seasoned professionals who have the ability and expertise to bring new business initiatives and decipher a roadmap for new leads and investments,” said Loliwala.

While Piramal Enterprises added DHFL Finance, the takeover of BillDesk by PayU set the records. Byju’s went on a massive acquisition frenzy to enter new segments like test preparation, professional training and programming courses for children. IPO-linked players like Pharmeasy and Delhivery went shopping looking to add both financial stocks and category additions as they prepare for the list over the next several months. To top it off, there have been several Thrasio-like models in the past year, which have acquired more than 200 brands in the past year, which is a key roll-up strategy.

Companies are poised to loosen their pockets to attract top talent in the field, resulting in a 35-50% increase in executive salaries, search experts said.

“As M&As will continue to drive the growth of most new and old economy companies in 2022, the demand for advisory bankers at all levels will continue well into the new year,” said Ruchi Thakkar, Director-Capital Markets at Native, a leading executive search firm. “Talent for M&A professionals is limited and there is heavy churn among investment banks to attract competitors, particularly at the mid-level,” she said, adding that the company sees a selective trend in corporate development teams, including within companies that are doing aggressively increase.

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