Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, it was only natural that CK Kumaravel followed the path of his father and brothers. His father, initially, bought pharma products in bulk and sold them to medical stores. But the one idea that changed the fortunes of his family and that of the FMCG industry was India’s first sachet shampoo, Velvette. It made extra-special grooming affordable to all. Later, his elder brother, CK Ranganathan, went on to build one of India’s most successful homegrown FMCG companies, CavinKare. While Kumaravel started out working with his brother, he always felt the urge to do something of his own. “I was never comfortable taking the safe option and that’s why I decided to become an entrepreneur,” he says. However, that road was not easy.
His first venture, the Raaga range of hair products launched in 1993, didn’t quite take off and he ended up selling the business to his brother. That didn’t deter him from heading out again and founding Naturals, which is one of India's largest hair and beauty salon chain, with his wife, Veena, in 2000. Today, the business rakes in Rs.3.5 billion in revenue annually. In his personal investment strategy too, Kumaravel prefers daring to comfortable. “Gold and fixed deposits are losing their appeal, and are probably for people who want to play it really safe,” he says. While a majority of his net worth is still invested in the business, real estate forms about 20% of his portfolio, mostly in properties in Chennai and hometown Cuddalore.
But what Kumaravel is most excited about is his angel investment fund, CK Angels, which he launched two months ago with an initial corpus of Rs.100 million. The fund, which aims to help consumer brands scale up, has already invested around Rs.5 million to Rs.10 million in five start-ups, including Put Kadalai, which makes peanut-based snacks; Kozhi Vilas, a quick-service restaurant and Famous, the brand behind the Madurai drink jigarthanda. “Most businesses, initially, don’t need huge capital but people with operating expertise to help them scale up. So, the plan is to take the business model to the next level, through infusion of funds, and to leverage my experience in franchising and retailing,” he says. Going ahead, Kumaravel plans to increase the fund size to Rs.1 billion, with the help of like-minded investors, and create several million-dollar start-ups.