Alumni Spotlight

Private Equity and M&A Expert Optimistic on Private Equity, Mergers & Acquisitions post-COVID-19

Jay Chaudhari `04MBA, Director of Business Development for RVR Consulting, has a pulse on the business community in Central Florida and expects deals to start ramping back up again.

For about two months, Jay Chaudhari was unsure what the future of private equity and mergers & acquisitions were going to look like for the rest of year.

Like nearly all of us, Chaudhari packed up his office and moved entirely virtual – a bit of an uncomfortable feeling for a businessman who feels strongly about the power of a face-to-face meeting.

As the country entered a lockdown, most of the deals in the works simmered down as well.

“It was essentially a 30-day pause, and then another 30-day pause,” he said.

Now as Florida is taking steps towards reopening, there is a renewed optimism as talks of deals are picking back up where they left off.

Opportunities in the Market

Chaudhari has over 15 years of experience working in the private equity and real estate industries.

Leveraging the relationships he built while a student at Crummer, Chaudhari first moved into the real estate development industry upon earning his MBA. His passion for social enterprise and innovation led him to co-founding two early-stage companies, JobPath and Waste to Energy Partners (of Bolder Industries).

As of June 2019, Chaudhari moved into his current role as the Director of Business Development for the RVR Consulting Group, using his vast experience to work directly with public, private and non-profit sectors to help achieve successful projects.

According to Chaudhari, the effects of COVID-19 on the Central Florida private equity and M&A fields have been V-shaped thus far.

There was a massive dip and a quick resurgence.

“Lately, my activity in terms of leads and new business is about the same as normal,” he said.

In terms of opportunities, this pandemic hasn’t affected the real estate market like the Great Recession did.

“I thought opportunities would pop up like the last recession,” said Chaudhari. “That is certainly not the case. General real estate didn’t get dinged too bad, industrial real estate is doing just fine, and retail will bounce back.”

He says banks are a lot stronger than they were during the Great Recession, and from a capital standpoint, they are doing fine.

Although the opportunities aren’t totally black and white, he does say he envisions wave of them in the future.

For one, office space could see a major facelift.

“The one real asset class that I feel has opportunity right now is office space,” he said.

With companies like Twitter and Facebook both announcing plans for a permanent work from home (WFH) structure, and many more companies expected to follow suit or become more flexible with remote work, places like office towers and corporate parks may take a hit.

“I believe opportunity will be there and people are going to get creative with it” he said.

Change to Everyday Business 

While the effects of COVID-19 thus far haven’t seemed to hamper Chaudhari’s business prospects, the way business gets done is definitely changing for Chaudhari and RVR Consulting.

“Video call meetings aren’t going away,” Chaudhari said.

Initially thinking that not being able to meet with people in person would be of detriment to his work efforts, Chaudhari found that video calling offers a level of access and convenience that wasn’t previously there.

“I learned people who were hard to get ahold of are now easy to get ahold of,” he said.

RVR Consulting also started offering pro-bono consulting during the lockdown to help advise businesses that couldn’t previously afford consulting. It was so successful, that it is something they will continue to do moving forward.

“It energized our entire staff and fits right into our mission of giving back,” said Chaudhari. “So, this is something we will continue doing.”

All About the People 

At the end of the day, Chaudhari says the key to success in making it in the private equity, M&A fields is being able to judge character.

One of his most successful business deals was raising the capital for Gringos Locos to expand their locations, a staple of the Central Florida food scene.

“Bars and restaurants used to be a big no-no for me, but I believed in these people,” said Chaudhari.

Chaudhari helped Grincos Locos raise capital for both locations to help fund their expansion efforts.

Today Grincos Locos has expanded to five locations, including a spot in the Amway Center, and continually wins numerous Orlando foodie awards, like “Best Taco” 8-years running by Orlando Weekly.

“Don’t always only pay attention to the numbers and the projections, but also if the management team and people are the right fit,” he said. “Focus on the people over the business plan.”