New York, August 16, 2005
NRI (non-resident Indian) Raj Vakharia, US
resident, politician, entrepreneur launched a private
equity fund by investing $250 million in commercial
and residential real estate, hospitals, and educational
Investment will provide financing for the development
of world-class properties and to assist in furthering
the country's economic expansion," Raj Vakharia
said. He is trying to enter into a co-investment agreement
with a major financial institution in India.
NRI, Raj Vakharia will target its investment in
high-growth markets throughout India including Delhi,
Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Pune. He expects to
leverage the equity to deploy over $750 million over
the next three to five years. He said, "I am
excited about the opportunity to form strategic alliances
with some of the country's top financial and real
NRI (non-resident Indian) Raj
Vakharia was born in Rajkot, Gujarat and came
to the United States in 1976 to attend Long Island
University, where he earned a master's degree in business
administration. He also has a law degree from the
University of Saurashtra. He worked for 25 years with
the investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin &
Jenerette where he rose to the position of managing
director of the firm's real-estate group.
Vakharia, who lives in Colonia,
N.J., has also served as New Jersey's assistant state
treasurer for New Jersey in Governor James McGreeveys
administration for one and half year , has resigned
from the position to return to his finance and investment-banking
career on Wall Street. He was the first Asian-Indian
to hold such a high Treasury post
Vakharia bought Uni-Mart in July,
November 1, 2004
Uni-Mart has a 32-year history
operating convenience stores, tobacco outlets and
truckstops under its Uni-Mart and Choice brands, most
of which offer gasoline products. It is offering buyers
of operating businesses equipment, long-term gasoline
supply agreements and long-term leases, as well as
allowing them to license its Uni-Mart and Choice brands.
Uni-Mart will continue to own the Uni-Mart brand,
as well as the land, improvements and underground
Uni-Mart is following a growing
industry trend, initiated by the major oil companies,
where ownership of convenience stores and gas stations
is put in the hands of individual dealers and operators
who are able to set their own margins and purchase
their own merchandise.
The company was recently taken
private in a transaction involving the company's founder
Henry Sahakian and Raj Vakharia, a former managing
director of Donaldson, Lufkin Jenrette.
"Combining Uni-Mart's 32-years
history in the convenience store industry with the
entrepreneurial energies of hundreds of individual
operators, many of whom bring years of experience
from fast food, and other retail businesses, to the
table is a fantastic concept," said Raj Vakharia,
"Uni-Mart is creating great
opportunities for entrepreneurs to buy businesses
with a proven track record. Buyers will only need
a modest investment as they can take advantage of
SBA and more traditional financing options. We are
tremendously excited about working with the founders
of Uni-Mart, the Sahakian family, in executing this
new strategy," added Vakharia.
Uni-Mart sold over 170 million
gallons of gasoline last year. Gasoline brands include
Exxon, Mobile, BP, Amoco, Sunoco, Uni-Mart and Choice.
Uni-Mart also offers a complete line of grocery and
convenience items, as well as lottery tickets, ATMs,
money orders, pre-paid calling cards and car washes.
There are 254 stores located in Pennsylvania; 22 stores
are located in New York, Maryland and Delaware. Gas
brands include Exxon, Mobil, Sunoco and BP. A number
of stores have Subs Now, Godfathers Pizza, Burger
King, Dunkin Donuts, Manhattan Bagel and Columbian
Harvest coffee offerings.
Over 100 million customers visited
Uni-Mart stores last year.
Uni-Mart was founded as a division
of Unico Corp., a real-estate company, in 1972. In
December 1986, with 208 stores in operation, Uni-Mart
became a publicly traded company on the American Stock
Uni-Mart was sold to Vakharia in
July. "We are not going to be like Dunkin' Donuts
or Quiznos and charge a percentage of revenues,"
he said. "They can buy gasoline from us. They
can buy merchandise from where they want and do what
they want with the price. We are going to charge a
fee of $200 to $300 a month."
"The franchising approach
is not a real partnership," he added. "The
licensing approach is easier from the operator's and
However, as is standard with franchising,
Uni-Mart is offering training for those who want it.
The company is also running a series of "How-to-Buy"
seminars to familiarize interested buyers with the
offerings, the terms and conditions of the sale and
the bidding procedures. The seminars will feature
presentations on the advantages of SBA loan programs
and how Uni-Mart's long-term leases and gasoline-supply
Vakharia is pushing the deal as
a great opportunity for people to purchase their own
business for little startup costs. According to him,
the average store price is about $300,000.
"It is a great, great deal
for an owner/operator," he said. "They put
down 15 to 20 percent and they will get it back in
12 months or less."
"Be a good honest businessman
and run it right and you are going to make money,"
According to Vakharia, his plan
going into his purchase of Uni-Mart was to sell stores
to individual operators.
With this in mind, Uni-Mart has
launched a publicity campaign to attract buyers that
includes advertising and direct mailings. Uni-Mart
is also targeting minority populations.