R Venkataramanan quits Ratan Tata's investment arm RNT Associates

Former Tata Trusts managing trustee R Venkataramanan was instrumental in making some marquee investments in start-ups on behalf of RNT Associates
R Venkataramanan, the former managing trustee of Tata Trusts, has resigned from RNT Associates Private Limited, the personal investment vehicle of Tata group patriarch Ratan Tata.

According to a Ministry of Corporate Affairs filing, Venkataramanan quit the firm as director on March 29. Since 2014, RNT Associates, along with UC-RNT Fund, has been investing in a series of new-age companies in India and overseas. It was also one of the early investors in companies like cab aggregator Ola and online retailer Snapdeal, as per Paper.vc.

A Tata group insider said Venkat, as Venkataramanan is popularly known, was instrumental in making some marquee investments in Indian start-ups on behalf of RNT Associates, and used to personally vet all proposals sent to Tata for investment in his personal capacity. 

UC-RNT Fund, an alternative investment fund with a corpus of $300 million, in partnership with RNT Associates and the University of California, has invested in several disruptive, technology-oriented businesses across the world. It takes a long-term, founder-centric approach to investing. To date, the fund has made investments in companies like NestAway, YourStory, CureFit, and MSwipe Technologies. However, since June last year, it has not made any new investment. According to media reports, Venkat has not been attending the fund’s meeting since March last year.

In February this year, Tata Trusts announced that Venkat would quit as managing trustee by March-end. The income-tax department had revoked tax benefits for the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust as it found Venkat's salary to be higher than the permissible limit. 

This also comes in the backdrop of Tata Sons raising its stake in AirAsia Ltd to 51 per cent from 49 per cent held earlier. Venkat held 1 per cent in AirAsia, while S Ramadorai held another 1 per cent. The rest 49 per cent equity is held by AirAsia. 

Insiders said Venkat was likely to join the group’s Tata Opportunities Fund — a third-party private equity fund, which invests in select Tata group companies and in outside companies. There was also speculation that Venkat would be offered a position overseas, but it could not be independently confirmed.

An email sent to Tata Sons on Friday seeking comments on Venkat’s new role did not elicit any response.

A committee of trustees of Tata Trusts, led by Ratan Tata, is currently conducting interviews to select the the next CEO for the trusts. The other members of the committee are Vice Chairman of Tata Trusts Venu Srinivasan, chairman of the TVS group, and retired bureaucrat Vijay Singh.

Prior to his association with Tata, Venkat was head of business support at Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Doha.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel