Alpha Hospitals and Air Deccan: Bhanu Choudhrie’s Private Equity Successes with C&C Alpha Group

Alpha Hospitals and Air Deccan: Bhanu Choudhrie’s Private Equity Successes with C&C Alpha Group

Bhanu Choudhrie is an experienced investor who works closely with entrepreneurs to grow their businesses long-term. He founded the international private equity firm C&C Alpha Group in 2002 to incubate projects, boost growth, and capitalise on market opportunities.

Notable successes from C&C Alpha Group’s portfolio include the profitable divestments of Air Deccan and Alpha Hospitals. These two case studies exemplify Bhanu Choudhrie’s expertise in strategic investments and value creation within the private equity landscape.

Introducing Bhanu Choudhrie’s C&C Alpha Group    

C&C Alpha Group distinguishes itself as a private equity firm with a unique approach. Unlike many of its peers, the firm operates on an extended investment horizon. This approach allows the firm to prioritise strategic exits timed to optimise value rather than pursue expedient divestment.

Headquartered in London, C&C Alpha Group also has offices in India and the United Arab Emirates. The firm boasts a successful track record spanning multiple sectors, including aviation, banking, hospitality, health care, real estate, and utilities.

Under Bhanu Choudhrie’s adept guidance, C&C Alpha Group identifies stand-out projects with exceptional leadership and helps them achieve optimal growth. The firm seeks opportunities characterised by the following attributes:

  • A strong management team.
  • Investment ranging from £2 million to £40 million per transaction.
  • Typical enterprise value of transactions ranging from £10 million to £100 million.
  • Potential to leverage C&C Alpha Group’s extensive international and cross-industry expertise. These synergies enhance the firm’s capacity for incubating start-ups and creating business value.

C&C Alpha Group’s portfolio currently includes:

  • Alpha Utilities, which provides quality water and wastewater management services in the Middle East. Since launching over 15 years ago, Alpha Utilities has become the region’s small-scale desalination technology leader.
  • Megalith Realty, a property management business that specialises in high-end apartments and residences in London.
  • Shanti One Real Estate Partners, a real estate investment, development, and management subsidiary in India.
  • Shanti Hospitality Group, a hotel and restaurant business with international brands and assets.

Amongst C&C Alpha Group’s prior portfolio holdings are Air Deccan and Alpha Hospitals. The successful sales of these companies reflect the firm’s skilled handling of strategic divestments and value optimisation strategies.

Air Deccan: revolutionising affordable travel in India

India’s aviation sector has experienced considerable changes over the last 20 years. Initially, only a handful of low-cost carriers (LCC) dominated the industry, with limited air travel to smaller towns. In the early 2000s, India operated around 420 daily commercial flights (compared to approximately 40,000 in the U.S.).

As of the 2023 financial year, India’s total air passenger traffic surpassed 190 million passengers. The country has several budget airlines, including Indigo, Air India, SpiceJet, Go Air, Air Arabia, and Vistara.

While LCCs like IndiGo and SpiceJet helped transform the country’s aviation industry, Air Deccan pioneered affordable travel in India. Retired Indian Army officer Captain G. R. Gopinath founded Air Deccan in 1997, initially launching it as India’s first private helicopter charter service.

Bhanu Choudhrie’s C&C Alpha Group invests in Air Deccan

C&C Alpha Group extended capital investment to Air Deccan in 2003, as Air Deccan pivoted to offering budget airline services. The LCC went on to revolutionise India’s aviation sector, introducing affordable fares to price-conscious customers. Some ‘early bird’ fares cost as little as one rupee ($0.01).

By 2004, Air Deccan had introduced new fares for flights between large cities. Booking seats months in advance for flights between Delhi and Chennai could cost as little as 500 rupees ($6) plus taxes. This was a significant drop from the usual one-way fare of 7,000 rupees ($84).

Air Deccan was also the first major Indian airline to connect the country’s tier-1 and -2 cities, like Belgaum, Madura, and Gwalior, making air travel more accessible to more people.

Bhanu Choudhrie explains: ‘There was a massive boom in aviation because journeys that had taken up to three days by train were now within reach of more people who could afford to fly.’

The sale of Air Deccan to Kingfisher

By 2007, Air Deccan operated 45 planes on 380 flights to 67 airports each day. However, due to soaring fuel prices and the emergence of other budget airlines, Air Deccan was also losing its edge in the LCC market.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher Airlines, a full-service Indian carrier, sought to venture into the international market. Kingfisher lacked the mandatory five years of operational history for overseas flights. The airline found a solution by acquiring Air Deccan, which allowed Kingfisher to meet this requirement.

Kingfisher acquired Air Deccan in 2007. At the time, Air Deccan was an Indian National Stock Exchange-listed company with a market capitalisation of $500 million.

Reflecting on the acquisition of Air Deccan, Bhanu Choudhrie shares: ‘The airline was a risk. Four of us invested and we said to each other at the beginning, “If it doesn’t work out, at least we can say we had an airline.”’

However, Air Deccan proved more than just an acquisition opportunity for Kingfisher. The strategic move ultimately reshaped the landscape of India’s airline industry.

Alpha Hospitals: the rewards of investing in health care

The UK’s health care sector has attracted significant attention from private equity investors for several years. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the industry to society and the wider economy, resulting in a surge in transactions.

Bhanu Choudhrie has steered C&C Alpha Group’s successful foray into this arena, beginning with Alpha Hospitals. Established in 2002, Alpha Hospitals went on to solidify its position as a leading entity in UK psychiatric care.

Alpha Hospitals served patients with mental health conditions and learning disabilities across various age groups. The company experienced substantial growth over 13 years, onboarding more than 1,000 staff members at three facilities in the North, North West, and South East of England.

In 2015, C&C Alpha Group orchestrated the strategic sale of Alpha Hospitals to Cygnet Health Care. The lucrative transaction, valued at £95 million, underscored the inherent value proposition Alpha Hospitals brought to Britain’s health care landscape.

With Cygnet’s acquisition, the health care provider expanded its footprint, amplifying its reach and capabilities within the mental health care domain.

Trends and opportunities in health care private equity

Health care private equity has recently endured macroeconomic challenges. The Global Healthcare Private Equity Report 2024 highlights factors like stubborn inflation and high interest rates contributing to the sector’s turbulence.

Despite these challenges, health care buyout activity is on the up, with signs indicating a rising deal volume relative to 2022. Areas of major opportunity for investors include generative artificial intelligence and life sciences innovation.

C&C Alpha Group continues to identify opportunities with strong growth potential in the health care industry. The firm’s focus is the development of new, premium, specialised, niche health care services in the UK and overseas. Strategic opportunities could not only yield significant returns but also catalyse transformative change in the health care sector.

About Bhanu Choudhrie

As the founder and director of C&C Alpha Group, Bhanu Choudhrie leads the firm’s investment strategy. He specialises in identifying opportunities in emerging markets, with a focus on India, China, and the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, he advises on strategies to nurture and expand businesses to their fullest potential.

Aside from his role at C&C Alpha Group, Bhanu Choudhrie was also a director of Customers Bancorp, the parent company of Customers Bank and BankMobile. In addition, he previously sat on the board of Atlantic Coast Financial Corp before Ameris acquired the company in 2018.

In 2008, the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards honoured Bhanu Choudhrie with the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award. Asian Voice is the UK’s leading English language magazine for the British Asian community.

Bhanu Choudhrie pursued International Business and Marketing studies at Boston University. He has also completed the Owner/President Management course at Harvard Business School.

Follow Bhanu Choudhrie on X.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.