by Mani Hayre
How do you go about selling an oil rig, let alone two?
We ask the woman who managed to sell both for $1bn within four months.
Pardip Khroud, CEO & Founder – Voyager Capital Partners
What is Private Equity?
One of the first questions I asked Pardip when we first spoke as it is a term I am familiar with, but didn’t fully understand the ins and outs. Who better to ask than a woman who set up her own private equity advisory business in the last 18 months?
She graciously answered in a way that even I could understand. Private equity is an injection of cash from investors into a business to accelerate growth. It’s a faster approach than trying to grow organically, where investors will take a share in the company, but will help you to grow quicker as now you have the resources to do so.
The real key thing, however, is the support it comes with alongside the cash. For a business looking at private equity and dismissing it for more traditional routes such as banks, this is what they are missing out on. The expertise, support and advice that comes along with their cash injection.
What Pardip explains is that investors are looking to grow your business to sell it for more than what they invested. Her company Voyager wants to level the playing field for SMEs to get the same support as larger businesses.
“I want to change how SME’s access capital and support them through the process. From start to finish, how to negotiate and position your business to get the maximum value. We bridge the gap between businesses and investors, ensuring SME’s are fully supported.”
What makes voyager different from private equity firms?
Private equity firms only provide support to businesses they invest in and therefore own a large stake in. Their main interest is their equity value in the business. . Our model doesn’t do that. We support businesses first and put the interests of the business owners first by giving them support usually only accessed by private equity backed businesses. We become an extension of the management team of the SME. It’s all about helping them to maximise their value with strategic and operational support as well as helping them navigate the world of investment.
The idea is to keep cash in the business to drive growth. The fact is small businesses don’t have easy access or support to equity capital, that’s where we come in. We just need businesses who have an ambition to grow.
Our USP is that we want to add value to their business and vice versa, we need to be the right fit for them and their business. We are here to help them scale up, but we also need to ensure culturally we’re the right fit to help them achieve this.
I want to break down the barrier, as many SMEs don’t know that they can go to private equity firms. When businesses need a cash injection they look towards family, friends or banks and I’m here to help accessibility through Voyager, to educate them on how to approach investors as information is not freely available.
Did you see businesses scale up, adapt and change during the last twelve months?
For businesses to survive they have to be agile, if they want to pivot their business, they need to be ready to do so. Unfortunately, businesses who don’t adapt are at higher risk and can be held back from achieving their potential.
The businesses that we work with are highly scalable and driven and want to take themselves to the next level. If they aren’t prepared it becomes very difficult for us to help them.
What I saw in the last year were businesses that were hugely agile seeing opportunities that weren’t there before. I’m seeing new businesses start up and seeking investment. Existing businesses we work with have adapted and been able to flex to survive the last year.
It is all about having that agility and being able to pivot, this is key for us as a business. A strong management team who takes the difficult decisions during downturns are ones to invest in.
Consumer demands are changing. The speed at which things are evolving is faster than ever. We don’t just want the parcel delivered faster we also want businesses to be greener and environmentally friendly. So being agile plays a huge part in what your customers needs and expectation are and how they’re changing.
You don’t see many Asian women in private equity, how are you perceived?
It was never an issue for me, my upbringing helped with that. Being the only woman or South Asian in the room never occurred to me. I knew it was an issue, but I didn’t pay it attention as I was more focused on the conversation around work and projects and what needed to get done.
There are less than 15% in private equity who are female, even less so if you are looking for women of colour. Part of setting up my own business was down to this statistic. I know that more female entrepreneurs exist and especially in the last year more women-led businesses have been founded. Yet the industry investing in them is predominately male so I wanted to change that.
I want to help female led businesses get the best value for their business, by giving them the confidence to have those conversations around investment in their ventures.
One of those projects was selling two oil rigs, which you did for $1bn in four months, that’s quite a feat. How did that come about?
Early in my career I was eager to have my own project and lead a deal. My manager tasked me with selling the oil rigs, which I took on. It was terrifying and as we went on, I didn’t realise how difficult it was.
Yet against all odds I got the deal done, people before me had tried to sell the oil rigs but had never quite achieved it. So, for me it put me on the radar and really accelerated my career. I tend to say yes and figure out how best to get things done after.
My default is I have nothing to lose, so take it on.
This project took me towards private equity, part luck and part hard work allowed me to gain the knowledge and opportunities that came my way. I’ve never said no, I will jump in and do it, no matter how scared I feel.
This is an industry not many people from minority backgrounds are familiar with. Usually getting into the industry comes down to who you know. This could explain the lack of representation as it’s not an easy industry to get into.
What advice would you give to others to encourage them to get into this industry, particularly women?
The reasons I got into private equity and set up my business using the skills I learned along the way is that I am passionate about helping businesses to grow. Finance has so many elements and parts to it, I would say never be intimidated by anything or anyone, there is space for everyone.
It’ll help you grow and learn and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. It’s all about self belief. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.