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Mandala Capital is a vision driven investment firm with an aim to transform the lives of hundreds of millions of farmers, making agriculture more sustainable, climate friendly and resilient while increasing people’s access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food.


We are a financial-first impact investor with a focus on investments in the food and agriculture value chain across South and South East Asia.

The region and sector offer compelling investment opportunities with a young and rapidly urbanizing population of 2 billion of which half remain linked to agriculture, a rising GDP per capita and stable economies. The region stands as an agriculture powerhouse and a global leader in the production of most major fruits and crops.

Largely private, family-owned companies coupled with small holder farmer producers have led to the region falling behind global peers on efficiency, productivity and technology adoption, creating areas for value addition and economies of scale.

We partner with visionary teams and executives and provide extensive financial and operational support to create a network of industry-leading champions that can transform our outdated food systems and solve challenges in climate, health and nutrition, resource efficiency and rural employment.

Let Mandala’s Managing Partner Uday Garg explain our mission and investment approach to you personally.

“The next ten years will be transformative for the sector as it faces challenges related to supply chain, climate change and resource efficiency coupled with rising demand.”

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AVCJ Profile: Mandala Capital’s Uday Garg

Uday Garg realised an unlikely career arc from tennis to private equity with the establishment of India’s Mandala Capital. This was guided by a passion for achieving impact in food and agriculture.

The most famous argument against active portfolio management compares the investment industry to the game of tennis. And it’s not flattering.

In his 1975 treatise on the subject, Greenwich Associates founder Charles Ellis described professional tennis as a winner’s game, where precision moves and skill decide the outcome. Amateur tennis is a loser’s game, where the smartest strategy is to simply avoid mistakes and let opponents defeat themselves through unforced errors.

The idea is that even as the overall economic pie increases in size, the investment industry is growing ever more crowded with skilled and informed practitioners. As a result, it has become less feasible to exploit a true edge, and the overripe gold rush has effectively turned portfolio management into amateur tennis. Don’t go for a smash; just keep the ball in court.

The theory is strictly academic and metaphorical – until it isn’t. AVCJ put the question to Uday Garg, founder of India’s Mandala Capital and one of few in the global private equity industry with experience playing world-class competitive tennis.

Garg was ranked number-one junior in India, played in the Junior Davis Cup, and competed against Grand Slam champions Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters. So, when he switched from tennis to investment, did he feel compelled to start playing a loser’s game?

“The people who are consistently winning at the top all come up with something new to elevate their game. Pete Sampras’ second serve was faster than his first. Everyone thought the second serve was conservative. Now everybody’s second serve on the [ATP] Tour is like a weapon,” Garg said.

“If you just do what everybody else is doing in investing, you’re never going to generate special returns for your investors. You can see that in most industries. The people who are doing well stepped out of their comfort zone and innovated in some way, and it looks normal now.”

Planting seeds

In fact, Garg’s career in private equity has deeper roots in family than sport. His grandfather, B.R. Barwale founded global seed company Mahyco and is a leading figure in the history of Indian agribusiness. In 1998, Barwale received the World Food Prize for “transforming the face of Indian agriculture,” through access to high-quality seeds.

Garg is the only person in his family without a science background, but he brought his interest in finance to the food and agriculture space in 2008 with Mandala, a returns-focused private equity firm with a strong impact agenda. His grandfather’s commitment to the welfare of farmers was the fundamental inspiration.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School – where he played Division I tennis – Garg tried his hand in a few domains. He did commodity trading and macro trading at US hedge fund Amaranth before managing special situations portfolios in Eastern Europe for Altima Partners, a UK-based Deutsche Bank affiliate.

By 2006, Garg was helping manage a USD 1bn global farmland fund that Altima had raised on the back of a high-minded but arguably unfocused Malthusian food crisis thesis. This is when the blueprint for Mandala began to take shape.

“There’s room for that in every portfolio, but personally, I didn’t feel that it was really doingjustice to the theme. I felt like the action was in Asia, not simply, ‘Food demand is increasing, and there’s farmland next to me in the US. Let me buy that,’” Garg said.

“Even back then, I felt strongly that countries wanted to be self-sufficient in food, pushing their own agriculture ecosystems and knowhow. It’s not that they couldn’t do it. They just needed the right capital, teams, and government support – the right target sector push.”

Mandala was founded on megatrend tailwinds around changing climate and consumption patterns. In the developed world, demand is growing for healthier foods with cleaner, more transparent supply chains. In the developing world, demand is growing across the board, especially in terms of a shift from carbohydrates to proteins.

Food safety and food security in the context of climate change and geopolitical tension are complex overlays that underpin much of the mandate. In addition to India, Southeast Asia is becoming a core geography.

The key opening in this space for an active private equity strategy is in the fragmented nature of food in developing markets. Unlike in more advanced economies, agriculture is a major contributor to GDP in South and Southeast Asia, but this activity is mostly represented by small businesses that are inaccessible via passive investment channels.

Getting traction

Garg had an edge in his family contacts but has consciously distanced Mandala from Mahyco to avoid perceived conflicts of interest. Still, the LP base has consistently comprised blue-chip US institutions the likes of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) and University of Texas Investment Management (UTIMCO).

The main fundraising hurdle has been a lack of comparable operators. Food and agriculture was an established niche in venture, but LPs had no benchmark for buyouts. The challenge was compounded by the need to balance elements of emerging markets, technology, consumer, and real assets strategies.

“I was only 30 when I started out, just talking to companies, using some of my own saved-up capital to invest in a few things, getting a friends-and-family pool going, a few million dollars. It was tough to manage that kind of cash and do something real, but we just figured out a way to keep the lights on and show some ability and track record,” Garg said.

“If you have a blank slate, you do not do food and agriculture with an India and Southeast Asia focus. You do a generalist Asia fund. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do this unless they really want to do it. There’s easier money to make doing software, financials, or healthcare.”

The first fund closed at USD 120m in 2016, with Fund II launching later the same year and closing on USD 130m. The portfolios are compact; there are less than 10 companies across both vintages. Midstream and upstream enterprise-facing suppliers are preferred. Control deals have proven the most successful. Climate shock is the wildcard.

“Our companies tell us they’re seeing events that they have not seen in 50 to 60 years, back-to-back droughts, extreme flooding, anomalies in El Nino,” Garg said.

“There’s been stuff we could never factor into our analysis because you look back and say, ‘Worst-case scenario, this happens.’ Then, something even worse happens. These three standard deviation events have started to happen. The flipside is it’s forcing a lot of innovation.”

Sugarcane processor Godavari Biorefineries offers a case in point. Mandala invested about USD 15m in the company in 2015 and spent the first two years shepherding it through a string of droughts said to be the worst in 30 years. The government had kept sugar prices low despite the domestic shortfall by allowing increased imports. The entire industry was operating at a loss.

Mandala stepped in on several fronts. Most importantly, it invested further capital to support the business and encouraged a move away from sugar toward ethanol and speciality chemicals, which had fewer price controls. Godavari is now the largest ethanol producer in India and prepping for an IPO.

It’s worth mentioning that sugarcane is a water-guzzling crop, which inspired some climate-conscious innovation on the side. Mandala mobilised another portfolio company, Jain Irrigation Systems, to install drip irrigation technology at the kind of plantations that supply Godavari’s feedstocks. Another investee, non-bank lender SAFL, helped those farmers finance the upgrade.

Garg sees drip irrigation as a game-changer in the mitigation of climate change impacts on agriculture. In effect, the technology circumvents the problem of erratic rainfall by supplying water directly to the roots of plants, simultaneously minimising waste, erosion, desalination, and pesticide contamination.

“Think of watering your plants at home but instead of just using a hose, you drip the water straight on the roots extremely slowly,” Garg said. “The water savings are greater than 50% and it’s also very climate friendly because fertilisers and nutrients are sometimes mixed with the water, and the slow application of this water means less runoff.”

Making an impact

Fund III is now in the market with a target of USD 200m and has secured an anchor commitment. It is hoped to benefit from the shift of global capital away from China and related food supply chain changes, as well as increasing understanding of climate issues and agriculture as a buyout opportunity.

There’s also a fair amount of exit activity to point to. Mandala is on track to return four out of four structured investments made via debt-like instruments by December and two out of eight equity deals by June. Another equity exit is expected by year-end. There are two divestments in process, a trade sale and a structured buyback, both described by Garg as “very good multiples.”

Mandala’s sharpening impact credentials are also likely to play a supporting role in fundraising, even if it’s an incidental effect. The firm has spent the past several years devising its own formulae to clear up the murk around impact measurement. Some of these have received patents.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the impact space, and it’s become a lot about paying agencies to sign up to their reporting standards or becoming signatories to different agendas. I didn’t feel that that was solving anything. We’ve worked with consultants that felt we were not doing a good job storytelling, and I say, ‘We don’t want to do storytelling – we want something more black-and-white,’” Garg said.

“The only way is to show numbers, but even with numbers, it can be deceiving. So, we’re looking at what impact do you get per dollar invested, which most people don’t do. This is something you do because you want to, or because you think it’s good. It shouldn’t be a strategy to raise money.”

Mandala Capital portfolio company Jain Irrigation completes transaction to merge its international irrigation business with Rivulis

In continuation to our intimation dated June 21st, 2022, we are pleased to announce that Jain International Trading B.V. (“JITBV”) (a wholly owned subsidiary of Jain Irrigation) and Rivulis have completed the transaction contemplated therein. Merged entity will create a global Irrigation and Climate leader – being 2nd largest in the world with ~ US$ 750 million in revenues. The corporate brand of the combined company will be “Rivulis – In alliance with Jain International” (“MergeCo”).

All the regulatory approvals related to the merger of multiple overseas subsidiaries of JITBV have been received by both entities. The condition precedent required by Share Purchase Agreement entered into by Rivulis Pte. Ltd & Jain International Trading B.V, have been satisfied. Jain (Israel) B.V. (step down subsidiary of JITBV) shall hold a strategic minority stake of ~18.7% in Rivulis Pte. Ltd post merger.

By virtue of this cash and stock transaction, the following is achieved.

  • Reduction in consolidated net debt of Jain Irrigation by 44% i.e. ~INR 2,800 crore (INR 28.0 billion). December 31, 2022 debt was INR 6,415 crore post transaction debt will be down to INR 3,615 crore.
  • Release of corporate guarantee given by Jain Irrigation, India of US$ 300 million (eq. INR 24.6 billion) to bondholders and lenders of IIB.
  • Jain (Israel) B.V. will continue to hold meaningful stake of ~18.7% in MergeCo
  • Jain Irrigation shall have a long-term supply agreement with the MergeCo, which will drive revenues and profits.
  • The MergeCo will continue to use and promote prominent JAIN Brands in markets where they have significant presence and value.
  • In terms of governance, Jain shall have representative directors and observer on the board of the MergeCo and will be able to help its growth through its significant expertise in micro-irrigation.
  • Jain Irrigation retains potential future value generation from the creation of this large global irrigation leader.

Going forward, Jain Irrigation will focus on further improving India business to drive higher growth and margin in one of the fastest growing irrigation markets in the world, and eventually aim to reduce debt on the standalone Indian business balance sheet as well.

Nutrition Technologies gets approval to import insect meal into EU and UK

The approval follows the inclusion of Malaysia as a third-party importer of insect-based ingredients to the EU.

In June of 2022, insect producers in Malaysia became eligible to export insect-based material to the EU for the first time, following Malaysia’s inclusion on the list of countries approved to export insects and insect-based products to the EU, joining a small selection of countries including Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and South Korea, with permission to do so.

On February 19, 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture approved Nutrition Technologies to export its insect meal and oil into the EU and UK markets, making it one of a handful of companies around the world and the first in Malaysia with this level of approval. The approval is for use in pet food, aquafeeds and fur animals.

A long approval process

“It has been a long process, partly because we are the first company in Malaysia to go through the approval process, so we and the Malaysian authorities had to do everything from scratch,” Nick Piggott, co-CEO and co-founder of Nutrition Technologies, told “We originally applied to the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), which is the competent authority regulating animal feed in Malaysia, in November 2021. At that time, Malaysia was not an approved 3rd party exporter to the EU, so the first process was for the EC’s DG Sante to assess and approve DVS as a competent authority capable of auditing farm operators in Malaysia to EU standards. This was completed in June 2022, and we were the first company audited in July 2022.”

The main requirements for the approval were to hold GMP and HACCP certificates and demonstrate global standards of food hygiene. “The UK and EU requirements are much more prescriptive than other countries, and far more procedural, mainly because our products are insect-based rather than animal- based,” Piggott told us.

The company also has the approval to ship to Thailand, Japan, Korea, Chile, Vietnam, Taiwan and Indonesia, all of which have pragmatic assessments of feed materials. “That basically means that we have to comply with the same regulations on quality and hygiene requirements as fishmeal, poultry meal, etc., rather than going through additional assessment simply because our material is of insect origin, rather than animal origin,” Piggott explained.


The first shipments to the EU and the UK will go in mid-March, once the company has processed the first TRACES health certificates. Nutrition Technologies currently ships industrial volumes of material throughout Asia and South America from the two-hectare factory in Malaysia.
The company is also beginning to ship to the U.S. this month and is looking into India. “We have a potential value-chain partnership in India which we are exploring that would bring sustainable, insect-fed seafood (primarily shrimp) to consumers in Japan and Europe. Our main focus is on pet food and aqua applications, so we’re focusing on markets that are strong in those two applications,” Piggott told us.

Less energy input

The insect meal is produced to the highest international safety and hygiene standards with full batch traceability, where the larvae are fed only vegetable-based agro-industrial materials such as palm and
grain byproducts.

Nutrition Technologies have a low-energy tropical production system that uses a unique combination of micro-organisms and black soldier flies to bioconvert 60,000 tonnes of waste organic byproducts into its value-adding products. As a tropical species, the black soldier fly larvae grow quickly and efficiently in the ambient Malaysian climate, meaning that very little energy is required to grow or breed the flies. This low-energy model means that the company benefits from a very low cost of production, but with the same high standards as any European or North American manufacturer, and is able to pass on those savings to the customer. This makes Nutrition Technologies’ products one of the most competitively priced insect products in the world, according to the company.

“This is a significant step forward in giving European manufacturers more sustainable options in their choice of feed ingredients,” said Nick Piggott, co-CEO and co-founder, Nutrition Technologies. “This development opens the door for new manufacturers to release insect-based products, and for existing manufacturers to both reduce their costs and improve their environmental footprint.”