General Atlantic acquires 27% of Ching's Secret for Rs 3.7 billion

Photo: Twitter (@generalatlantic)
Marking its first investment in the foods category in India, private equity firm General Atlantic India has acquired 27 per cent of Ching’ Secret, a brand that is owned by the Ajay Gupta-run Capital Foods and makes desi Chinese masala, sauces, instant noodles, instant soups and schezwan chutney.


The deal, which is valued at ~3.7 billion and will be made across two tranches, will also include a second investment next year. This will result in a total investment projected to be between $75 million and $100 million, said a person aware of the transaction who did not wish to be named.


“Indian Chinese is aspirational for most homes, with chilli chicken and chilli paneer on most dhabas’ menus,” the person added. General Atlantic, the acquirer, bought the stake from investor Invus and the Ajay Gupta-led Capital Foods.


Ching’s Secret, with its outlandish ads featuring Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh, sees competition from companies such as Nestlé and HUL, which also make products in the instant foods and condiments categories such as Knorr’s soups and Maggi noodles.


An investor, who also tracks the sector, said, “Mall and trade visits show children love it, which means mothers usually buy it. Indian Chinese is usually a hot choice because the challenge for the mother is always to make a meal interesting for kids.”


General Atlantic’s other companies in the country have typically been driven around financial technology ventures and businesses that connect closely with consumers. They include the House of Anita Dongre, IndusInd Bank, KIMS Hospitals, Billdesk, and IIFL Wealth & Asset Management.


Food in general is an attractive sector for investors, with firms like Lighthouse Capital having invested in momo eateries and biscuit manufacturers. But, it is the fragmented categories that include staples with scale, which ultimately show promise for investors. These include biscuits, sauces, noodles sauces and condiments. Mails sent to General Atlantic and Capital Foods remained unanswered.


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