CNBC called Renuka Ramnath the mother of private equity in India, and as managing director and CEO of ICICI Venture Funds, one of India's largest PE firms, they weren't far off. Ramnath took over the fund in 2001 and promptly changed its focus from venture funding to mid- and late-stage growth deals and buyouts. In 2003 the fund had $50 million in assets under management; by 2007 that number had grown to $2.4 billion and ICICI Venture Funds had grown from a pure-play private equity fund to a full-fledged asset management firm.

Focusing on nurturing entrepreneurial Indian companies, Ramnath has produced outsized returns for her investors. Profit after taxes rose 39 percent in fiscal year 2007 over 2006; in the year ending in March 2008, profit was up 29 percent. For the full year, the firm is predicting profit will rise 41 percent over the prior year. For investors, the growth has been prodigious as well; for example, ICICI Venture's India Advantage Fund, a $267 million fund raised in 2003, has realized an internal rate of return of 73 percent to all its investors.

Some of the firm's recent noteworthy returns came as a result of Ramnath's "conscious decision to exit from a few very large investments before the current market situation presented itself, thus making supernormal profits for all investors," Ramnath said in a statement to US Banker.

But Ramnath knows that the Indian growth story won't last forever, and has laid out a course to take her funds global, and fully diversify by 2015. Her vision for the next year includes raising three new funds and launching an international practice, an infrastructure practice, and a corporate social responsibility practice. The new efforts, when complete, will nearly double assets under management, with Ramnath hoping to hit $5.4 billion by the end of 2009.

Ramnath's role model in this regard is Blackstone's Steven Schwarzman, who she calls the model for all alternate asset managers, "especially for those operating in small geographies and those restricted in scope and size of operations."

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