"Perseverance is of paramount importance," says Mihir Mehta, the youngest accomplished Investment Banker

Mihir Mehta, one of the youngest accomplished professionals in investment banking, in an interview with Mumbai Live, spoke about how he successfully cracked the best deals during the times of COVID-19 and managed to excel in his career at a young age.

"Perseverance is of paramount importance," says Mihir Mehta, the youngest accomplished Investment Banker
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Mihir Mehta, one of the youngest accomplished professionals in investment banking, is a rising star in the Indian finance sector and swiftly emerging as one of the top deal-makers in the country. He currently enjoys his role as Senior Vice President at Ashika Capital.

Mehta joined Ashika Group, which is a diversified financial services business in 2015 and self-learned the ropes of Investment Banking. At present, the investment banker is also the Investor-Director at food startup The Bohri Kitchen, the Youngest board member of the Association of Investment Bankers in India Advisor (AIBI) and also on the board of TagMango, Y Combinator 2020 batch startup.

In an interview with Mumbai Live, Mihir Mehta spoke about how he successfully cracked the best deals even during the times of COVID-19 and managed to excel in his career at a young age:                            

You have had an experience of working with Google as an Account Strategist, what compelled you to shift to investment banking? Also, what was the purpose behind choosing the F & B sector?

To be honest, shifting to investment banking and choose this as a career option was not a planned move. One thing that I was certain at that time was to quit Google as there were multiple options that I could pursue after my stint with Google. I had no previous experience in investment banking, which allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the ambiguity and flexible approach to transaction advisory, an aspect that I absolutely loved. Also, that helped me in crafting a non cookie-cutter approach to deal-making and I feel that has stayed with me ever since.

I have always followed what I love and that is simply how the focus on F&B sector came into being. Once the founder of a USD 2 billion healthcare enterprise told me “Generic is mediocrity and niche is prosperity” and I do sincerely believe that transaction advisory is about building forte in a sector/domain. I believe that the turnaround post COVID will be healthy and as India’s consumer story plays out in the next few years, F&B will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this positive trend.

So far, what are the breakthrough deals you’ve done as an investment banker?

In the last five years, the entire team at Ashika Capital has achieved some interesting and significant milestones in terms of deal-making. We have advised transactions across sectors like real estate, consumer (CPG, F&B, Fashion), healthcare and BFSI. We have approached some of these transactions with novel deal structures, payment terms, equity swaps etc. While there are multiple transactions that we have assisted in these years, the very first transaction that I advised and closed as an investment banker was in the seafood industry at the age of 25.

To me, this transaction seemed almost impossible at that time because of the cyclical nature of the business and being in commodities space, venture capitalists were not too keen to enter the business with financial capital. Fortunately, we were able to close the transaction for this company based out of Kolkata and currently they have one of East India’s largest seafood processing facilities.

At such a young age, how did you manage to achieve these milestones of youngest board member and Investment Director at various startups? Can you explain about your role as the youngest director at AIBI?

I believe that I have been able to pursue some of these positions is simply because of my passion to do as much as possible in the domain. A considerable factor that has always helped me in sustaining my contribution to any organization or role has been the intensity of my willingness or passion to be in that place. As Steve Jobs remarked in one of his speeches, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

AIBI strives to work in members’ interests by providing regular updates and learning, collaboration with relevant stakeholders, communicating with SEBI (the capital markets regulator), strengthening relationships between different investment banking firms among other pertinent activities. As a director on the board of AIBI, I primarily look after the membership sub-domain including learning activities, induction of new members, cementing interactions between multiple stakeholders like law firms, registrars etc.

This year you struck a deal between Miadiamante and Independence Brewing Co. How did you excel in striking this deal even during the time of COVID?

Undoubtedly, F&B has been one of the worst hit sectors due to the pandemic and the initial months of lockdown saw some novel brands finding it extremely difficult to sustain with close to zero revenues and regular cost structures. We took up the mandate from Independence Brewing Co (IBC) in order to raise capital and while we were in the process of investor outreach and speaking to fund managers to look at the business, the crisis hit IBC as well.

However, even during these trying times, we motivated ourselves to find a suitable investor for the business and who could share the passion and vision with the founder. All our efforts during the lockdown were geared towards conducting a transaction that is a win-win for all the stakeholders. As this entity had a large shareholding of US based investors, the transaction was trickier considering capital gains implications, FEMA rules, outbound capital movement etc. One critical philosophy that we followed throughout the transaction was to ensure that we are not pushing any stakeholder to agree to terms in the light of the pandemic but working on arriving at best possible alternatives in case of disagreements with respect to terms of the deal.

Due to pandemic, the F&B sector has been affected. According to you, what is the scope of the F & B sector in the next few years?

As I have said in the past, I believe that F&B sector will see a rapid revival. In fact, after unlock phase we are seeing prompted recovery and customers are coming back to trusted and transparent F&B brands and outlets. To be precise, there are three interesting trends that will play out -

1. Focus on technology in order to minimise costs and physical contact especially in restaurants

2. Transparency in operations and communication is the key

3. Efficient menu engineering and focusing on best elements so as to not stress the supply chain

What’s your take on the current Indian economic situation and its recovery?

Very recently, the FY 21 real GDP growth rate forecasted by RBI now stands at -7.5 per cent as opposed to earlier expectation of around -9.5 per cent and that suggests that the economy is responding well in the aftermath of the ongoing pandemic. We are seeing healthy recovery in certain sectors like consumer durables, consumer packaged goods, food processing, travel and tourism, which were the most negatively affected. We continue to be bullish on the economic recovery and as evidenced by the earnings reported by some mid-sized companies in the listed space, the revival may not be in form of a hockey stick but the recovery is happening and the important thing is that it is sustainable and tenable.

Would like to give a word of advice for our aspiring Investment bankers?

Three simple philosophies -- Perseverance/Hustle is of paramount importance, thinking like an investor and realising the risks associated with investing is indispensable and lastly, creating win-win deals for all stakeholders.

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