THE façade of Imperial College’s City and Guild building in South Kensington will see a slight change in 2016 when works on a rooftop laboratory start. Interestingly, the state-of-the-art facility, which will be used for drone testing, is to be named the Brahmal Vasudevan aerial robotics lab.
Yes, it’s the same savvy investor that has made his presence in the Malaysian equity market and who is also donating £1.25mil (RM6.6mil) to the lab. Brahmal received a first class honours in aeronautical engineering from this university in 1990.
But after graduating, he opted for a job in marketing, joining British American Tobacco (BAT) Malaysia as a management trainee.
“I was interested in both but I quickly realised that my interest was really on the business side,” he recalls.
Brahmal had a stellar rise at BAT – becoming the firm’s global brand manager at a young age of 25, He moved to London after spending three years in Malaysia.
Being a brand manager allowed him to see all aspects of a business.
“It was a great place to start from. I was lucky as there were a lot of changes going on (in BAT) and there was a vacancy.”
He says BAT’s culture of training enabled him to hone his skills in business development.
In 1995, Brahmal left BAT to pursue his MBA from the Harvard Business School, where he was to meet a few friends from India who would become crucial to his private equity future.
Following his MBA, Brahmal returned to Malaysia to head planning and subsequently a director of marketing at Astro.
He also spent a short stint in Maxis, and later joined the board of Usaha Tegas. These companies gave the impression that he is close to low-profile tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan.
But in 2000, Brahmal made a break from executive roles in Ananda’s companies in Malaysia to join the newly-formed ChrysCapital as a general partner along with two of his classmates from the Harvard Business School.
ChrysCapital started with a fund size of US$64mil (RM211mil) and the second fund was twice the size of the first at US$127mil in 2001.
In 2004, the fund raised US$255mil and an additional US$550mil in 2005.
The India-based private equity firm raised over US$1bil during its fifth round of fund-raising when markets were at a high level in 2007.
“India really took off from 2003 to 2007. We were at the right market at the right time.” Despite the boom, he says the team was fairly disciplined in 2007 and 2008 and sold some US$500mil of the fund’s investments in 2007.
He adds that the fund “did not do much in 2008” but as the market collapsed by 50%, they invested US$500mil.
They did not catch the bottom as the market fell further but it rebounded rapidly and their investments doubled within a short period of time.
ChrysCapital’s sixth fund was run by the remaining team as Brahmal and his partner decided to pursue other interests.
“I felt that India was crowded and it was an opportune time to expand the geography… I have always wanted to come back to Malaysia.”
In 2011, he returned to be with his family and friends and to set up Creador.
“Private equity is still much in its infancy here. There was an opportunity of bringing our model of investing to Malaysia.”