Agriculture Sector

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Agriculture investments: The smart money is betting on the Pakistani farm

Venture capitalists, merchant bankers and large conglomerates are all piling in.

By Farooq Tirmizi

Published: October 24, 2011

Venture capitalists, merchant bankers and large conglomerates are all piling in.

The headlines may be screaming about violence and extremism but the smart money is betting, very quietly, on Pakistani agriculture.

From international venture capitalists to global and local conglomerates to private equity firms, there has been a small but growing trend towards investing in the Pakistani agricultural sector, one of the largest in the world in terms of its production of several key commodities.

The amounts involved are small so far, but the names of the investors coming in – and the expertise and connections they represent – are far more significant.

One company that has done more than most to bring in foreign investment into Pakistani agribusiness is Indus Basin Holdings, a new venture capital firm that has amongst is investors financial and industrial luminaries from Europe and the United States.

Indus Basin is the brainchild of Aamer Sarfraz, a merchant banker at the London-based private equity firm Tigris Financial, where he has been managing director since 2006.

“We’re focused on non-political commodities (those in which the government does not set the prices) where we can launch greenfield investments that yield a return that is 10, 20, 40 times the initial investment,” said Sarfraz in an interview with The Express Tribune. “We want to be the biggest agribusiness private equity player in Pakistan.”

The Boston University and LSE-educated Sarfraz has managed to bring in Tim Draper, the founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of the largest Silicon Valley venture capital firms that was an early investor in firms like Hotmail and Skype. He also brought in Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Swiss aristocrat whose family owns the ThyssenKrupp, a German...