Earlier, Sudhir Valia, director on the board of Sun Pharma, was known primarily within India’s pharmaceuticals fraternity. However, his move to acquire 26 per cent stake in a joint venture with Norwegian telecom giant Telenor, has instantly thrust him into the spotlight.
Last week, Telenor announced the group’s new, wholly-owned Indian entity, Telewings Communications, had signed a partnership agreement with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance, a company controlled by Sudhir Valia.
Though Valia, through Lakshdeep Investments & Finance, has been an independent investor in many mid-sized Indian companies, his investment in Telenor has attracted more attention than he has ever experienced.
Valia’s bet on the Indian telecom industry is akin to the moves of ace billionaire investor Sivasankaran, who, through large stakes in Aircel and Tata Teleservices, had also bet on India’s telecom story.
Many have speculated Valia’s brother-in-law and Sun Pharma Managing Director Dilip Shanghvi had, in the past, pumped his own money through Lakshdeep.
They add this time, too, he might have done the same. Valia, however, denied such allegations. Industry experts say a 26 per cent stake in Telewings could cost about Rs 2,500 crore. The infusion of such a large amount by Valia, in his personal capacity, might be impossible, said a Mumbai-based analyst. However, speaking from his office in Dadar, Valia stressed Sun Pharma or Dilip Shanghvi had nothing to do with his investment in Telewings. “But we will seek outside investors at a later stage,” he said.
Valia, who joined Sun Pharma in 1994, has been involved with taxation and finance at the company. He is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and is also director on the boards of a number of companies, including the US subsidiary of Caraco Pharma.
Valia is a devotee of Lord Ganesha; his office is decorated with a multitude of Ganesha idols.
Though he has invested hundreds of crores across sectors, media-shy Valia’s office is still housed in an old building near the Dadar station.
The yellow, dilapidated building is in keeping with his low-key persona. However, having thrust himself into the high-stakes, intensely-tracked world of Indian telecom, he may now find it difficult to stay away from the spotlight.