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NRI to invest $250m in Indian commercial and
residential real estate

New York, August 16, 2005
Vijay Sharma

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 institutions.

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 estate institutions.


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 McGreevey’s 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, 2004

Uni-Mart´s 285 stores

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 equipment.

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 co-chairman.

"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 Exchange.

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 our perspective."

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 agreements work.

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," he added.

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.

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NRI Raj Vakharia- NRI invests $250 mn to capitalise on Indian market