Capital for East Africa

Bobby Virdi WG’16, Founder of Bahari Capital, received a $10,000 Wharton Venture Award to work on his startup over the summer. At the end of the summer, we asked him a few questions about his progress.

Introduction to Bahari Capital sm

What does your startup do? Has your startup changed over the summer?

My summer was designed to research the market in East Africa in order to source private equity investment opportunities and evaluate the possibility of creating a fund, Bahari Capital, which focuses on the region.  As such, the main objective of my summer was to travel around East Africa, with a primary focus on Tanzania and Kenya, to network with business owners in the region to source proprietary deal flow.

As I immersed myself in the local business ecosystem and deepened my understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the market, I began to realize that the private equity fund model was perhaps not the best avenue to pursue.  There is a clear need for capital, managerial skill and technology in the region.  Building a business which can combine all three with a long term commitment will create lasting businesses of scale in a market which is still largely underserved.  While I am still tweaking the final structure of Bahari Capital, I anticipate it to be closer in appearance to the business groups that operate in emerging markets (with the difference that it will be externally funded) and less like traditional private equity.

What have you used the Wharton Venture Award for this summer?

I was able to spend quality time in both Dar-es-Salaam (DSM) and Nairobi (NRB), the two largest commercial cities in Tanzania and Kenya.  In addition I visited a number of Tier II and III cities such as Arusha, Mwanza, Dodoma, Iringa, Morogoro, Kisumu and Nakuru.  In aggregate I met over 250 people over the summer, split between private business owners, larger corporations, development organizations, banks, law firms and other advisors (business consultants).

Through my work I was able to generate a pipeline of investment opportunities and also conduct primary research on growth trends which has led to investment themes.

What comes next for your startup? How do you plan to continue working on it over the school year?

At present, there are two active investment opportunities I am working on.  One is in the Consumer sector and the other Industrial.  Both involve building platforms by bringing together managerial talent, the right product and capital.  Spending the Fall semester in London through Wharton’s International Exchange Program is allowing me to be closer to my investors and in largely the same time zone as East Africa–both factors which are allowing me to plan and move these investments forward.

Bio: Bobby Virdi is a Tanzanian national.  Prior to founding Bahari Capital, Bobby was a private equity investor in middle market businesses in Western Europe and North America, most recently with Rubicon Partners and previously with H.I.G. Capital.  Earlier in his career Bobby was an M&A advisor with Harris Williams & Co.