India is where the action is for family offices in emerging markets


India is the only economy out of the so-called BRIC emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – where a vibrant family office sector has taken hold. The country’s family offices are doing deals and developing a higher profile as investors in India as well as abroad.

Despite the widely held belief that wealthy families in emerging markets would increasingly set up family offices as their businesses matured, the reality is few have been set up in these countries. But India stands out as an exception.

Here’s five Indian single-family offices active in the country:

Catamaran Ventures: The Bangalore-based family office of Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of India’s most successful tech business, Infosys;

Innovations Investment Management India: Also Bangalore-based and set up by one of the co-founders of Infosys, S. D. Shibulal;

Unilazer Ventures: The Mumbai family office of the Indian media tycoon, Ronnie Screwvala;

RNT Associates: The family office of arguably India’s best known businessman, Ratan Tata. It’s also based in Mumbai; and

Burman Family Office: The family office of the Burman family, which own Dabur, one of India’s biggest consumer goods companies.

All these offices have been set up in the last 20 years. Altogether, India is estimated to have around 60 single-family offices, although reliable data is hard to come by, and there are some estimates that say there are up to 200. Whatever the true number, Indian families are much more active in the area than their counterparts in Brazil, Russia and China.

In Brazil, the family office sector is limited to around 15 families, according to local sources. And the current difficult economic and political situation in the country won’t see that number moving up for a long time. China’s family office sector is also limited to a few families, despite the vast wealth been created in the country in the last 20 years.

A family business culture hasn’t taken hold in the country anything like it has in India, which also means that family offices in China have been slow to take off. Few family offices exist inside Russia, with most of the country’s business oligarchs preferring to set up investment offices outside of the country.

Not only are there more family offices in India, but they are much more active in their home market. A local research firm called Venture Intelligence reckons in recent months family offices are among the most active investors in the direct deal market in India.