Investing in the Future

It takes a man of rare talent to achieve something great. Siddharth Yog is an Indian businessman who has dazzled the business world with his knowledge and hold of it, and captured it at the young age of 32.

Siddharth Yog’s successful two-decade career and his latest venture have broadened the scope of foreign investments in India and have also strengthened itself with Virtuous Retail and Xander Finance. These are a testimony to his talent. He founded Xander, based in the US, an investment firm in 2005. It presently manages $ 2.1 billion and has invested $ 1.5 billion in real estate, retail, infrastructure and hotel companies in India.

Apart from Yog, the firm’s founding members include esteemed business geniuses and big shot investors. Lord (Jacob) Rothschild’s family interests and RIT Capital Partners plc, The Getty Family Trusts, Professor Arthur I Segel, Poorvu Family Professor of Management Practice, The Harvard Business School. Siddharth has chaired the firm’s investment committee since its conception. The company has managed to survive and shine in a slumping market. They not only sustained in the fluctuating market of India, which easily served to uproot many other weak players.

His company has thrived and the reason is its strong research team, which is the backbone of the organization. It allows them to invest outside the traditional real estate funds ñ office and residential space, their out of the box approach which Siddharth explains in his own words “We are not growth investors. Rather we are value investors. As a result whether the market is slowing or heating up, we are always looking for opportunities where we believe there is a mismatch between fundamental base value and market price.”

He has a real grasp of the working of the Indian market and its trends. They have offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Mumbai, Delhi and other places too. “As you can see the problem is not with the market. It’s with the players in the market; developers who do not want to create value through actual development and see windfall arbitrage only in quick fixes and a nebulous entitlement process; and investors who instead of doing the hard work analyzing fundamentals are just betting on leverage and growth (or usually both) to generate returns.”

He excelled not only in finance but in education as well. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School with the highest distinction and was elected a Baker Scholar and also President of his Class. Earlier he earned an Honors degree in Economics from the University of Delhi and was elected the head of the student union, which goes to show his leadership skills.

Siddharth is a member of the President Global Advisory Council at Harvard University and of the International Advisory Board of the University’s Real Estate Academic Initiative; a member of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; Co-founder and board member of the Ashoka University in India; and Chair of Yuj Kutumba, the Yog Family Foundation.

His career ran as, from 1999 to 2002 he was based in Singapore and Hong Kong as Founder Director of CBREs Asia/Pacific strategic consulting practice. Earlier from 1995 to 1999, he helped set up CBREs India operations and led the consulting, valuation and research groups. He has also worked at Bain & Company in New York, Deutsche Bank Real Estate Investment Management GmbH in Frankfurt and Feedback Ventures in New Delhi.

Yog was complicit with his initial success but he decided to up his game a bit and moved for an MBA. He landed at Harvard business school in 2002, a professional with experience in real estate, feeling out of place and out of tune with his peers.

But he struck a chord with his professor Arthur Segel who went on to mentor him to his success. He started doing research work for him, helped him on with a case study. Segel was impressed and has remarked that in his teaching years he must have taught some 3000 students and Siddharth was the smartest he had the privilege of teaching.

By the March of 2005, Segel was ready to take the big plunge and make some bold investments. Lord Jacob Rothschild, a ruling investment banker and member of the legendary Rothschild business family proposed to invest in the Indian market. But the superior strategic head and his mentor Segel advised him to found a fund for himself first.

Segel believed him to be too young, aged 32, to manage other people’s money. But funnily enough he remembered it was the age he started out at! And decided to nudge him forward. Xander was so found and right from the beginning was backed by investors at the top of their game globally.

Siddharth wanted to create a firm that was global in its perception yet entrepreneurial in nature, which he had found to be a weakness in the firms he had come across in his experience. Consistent returns over an enduring period were what he was expecting of it. With His friend and partner from earlier Rohan Sikri, their rich experience pooled in they made a research oriented approach their goal, which they had all the power of becoming the winning factor for their work. And it did. Their in depth research is what sets them from their competitors. While most firms do not choose to dabble in hospitality and other non-traditional options, Siddharth was sharp enough to see their potential. He is neither afraid of hard works nor of long time investments which might be difficult to opt out of later. With Virtuous Retail founded in 2006 with equity of $600 million (s3,200 crore)-more than a fourth of his paid-up capital, he made his most striking and bold move yet in the business sphere. It was founded with the express mandate to build and lease high quality retail space in India, which he saw that most malls, ghost malls, across the country have failed to do.

He contributed to education and research and gave them the importance they deserve. He is a profounder of liberal arts education or an expansive education purview. The Asoka University is his effort to realize his ambition of providing youth with the education, which according to him the present education system of our country denies them. He believes at the level of higher studies we are forced to relegate ourselves to a specific field, bound by the curriculum even if you may want to expand and include more.

Furthermore he is a person who is not only humble but recognizes, appreciates and is indebted to the support and guidance his teachers extended to him. As a token of his gratitude he donated $11,000,001 to Harvard University, adding the final dollar in the Indian tradition of auspiciousness. He has not forgotten his roots. The donation will also establish a Xander University Professorship at Harvard and provide financial aid for students. Though his teacher found the donation being made in his name, absolutely unacceptable, Siddharth dig out the tale of Eklavya and Dronacharya to acquaint his teacher with the Indian ethic of guru dakshina.

Siddharth explains Xander’s second division known as Xander Credit, “Xander Finance’s ambit is not restricted to realty and the firm works across sectors and industries. Given the pedigree of Xander Finance, it is but natural that the team started in a sector where it feels more comfortable pricing real estate risk since that is embedded in the DNA of the firm. However, the mandate of the firm definitely spans multiple sectors and I am given to understand from our local leadership, that XF has already consummated deals in other sectors like ‘edutainment’ and is looking across sectors that are currently liquidity constrained”.

The concluding factor in a man’s career will always be his will to excel and create better opportunities hence the person not only explores new opportunities for himself but the philanthropic nature is also pushed to the limits which can be seen in Siddharth Yog. He has infused inspiration and zest in a commonly perceived monotonous endeavour. Sharp and active strategic business is what enlivens it. Siddharth’s has been a one of a kind success story at each turn of his life. The son of a railway officer he has gone on to rule the big money charts. He lives on the go, out of a briefcase. He is aggressive in his aim and focused. And in all his achievements he has not lost sight of what the country needs and has been active in changing those parts of the system he found to be discordant to his beliefs. We need more people like him who truly wish to make a difference in the world and who exercise their power, their rightly owned and earned in the right way.

Nikita Gupta

Writer is a student and her passion is painting

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 22, Dated 05 January 2016)

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