After spending nearly two decades at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group, Vikram Gandhi, 49, left Wall Street last year. But he did not exactly retire.
In February, Gandhi launched New Delhi-based VSG Capital Advisors to provide cross-border and domestic investment and advisory services to those eyeing Indian companies. A month later, he landed a gig as a senior adviser to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, guiding the pension plan on its Indian and Asian emerging-markets investment strategy. He has also been hired by New York's Greenhill & Co. -- having worked with chairman Robert Greenhill and CEO Scott Bok at Morgan Stanley -- as a senior adviser to clients seeking acquisitions in India and Asia. And he's serving on the Governing Council and Investment Committee of the government-seeded India Inclusive Innovation Fund, which invests in healthcare, education, rural development, alternative energy and financial services projects largely aimed at impoverished Indians.
Gandhi still spends about half his time in the U.S., where his three children attend school. But he calls his part-time return to India a proactive move. "This is a way of coming back and giving back to my country of origin," he says.
A native of Mumbai, Ghandi started his career with Indian conglomerate Tata Group and then attended Harvard Business School. After earning an M.B.A. in 1990, he joined Morgan Stanley and, in 1997, returned to Mumbai as chief operating officer and eventually president of the bank's operations there. He moved back to New York in 1999 as COO of the firm's e-commerce initiative and in 2003 was named global co-head of Morgan Stanley's financial institutions group. In 2005, he left to head Credit Suisse's FIG group. He spent six years there -- the first three in New York and the last three in Hong Kong, and left in 2011 for a short-lived hiatus. "I spent seven to eight months off," he says. "I had never spent a whole summer with my family, and after a while they were ready for me to get back to work."
And get back to work he did. When not building VSG, Gandhi is raising money for the IIF, with the goal of $1 billion over the next 12 to 18 months from family funds, endowments and foundations. He explains that while the government is seeding the fund, it is independently managed; the government's investment will be about 10%. The fund will invest -- directly, and via other funds -- in Indian entrepreneurs building enterprises focused on the problems of the poor. Gandhi is helping to recruit a management and legal team to run the fund -- mostly "local talent and Indians living abroad who want to come back," he says. "Maybe ex-private equity folks who've been on the operating side."
As for VSG, Gandhi plans to keep operations small. "Rather than building up a big cost structure, I want to partner with firms like Greenhill" to leverage off of their resources, he says.
A lot has changed in India since Gandhi ran Morgan Stanley's operations there. "Compared to 15 years ago, India is a lot more integrated in the global economy," adding that more capital is flowing into the country and Indian multinational companies are on the rise. "The spirit of entrepreneurialism at the local level is much higher than before."
As far as those who are seeking to cash in on this growth, he says the next frontier for incoming investment is "institutional investors looking to diversify their portfolios." With relationships on all sides of the globe, he should be well positioned to capitalize on this demand.