rushabh desai

Rushabh Desai: ‘There is a big group of investors who are not in Asia’

Former Asia-Pacific head of Allianz Real Estate Rushabh Desai has formed an alternative real estate fund management business with Scape Australia co-founders Stephen Gaitanos and Craig Carracher.

Varsity Group Asia Pacific has been set up as an associate company of student housing group Scape Australia.

It will seek to offer investors exposure to a range of alternative property types across the living, education, healthcare and technology sectors.

Desai, CEO of Varsity Group Asia Pacific, said the aim was to fill a perceived gap in the market which is currently predominated by funds and strategies that target individual sectors, such as data centres, student housing and self-storage.

“We spoke to certain investors to understand what they were looking for. The products we are designing are aimed at catering to their needs and to tapping into the broad alternative real estate space,” he said.

“We will obviously do capital raising and plan to launch our first product in the next couple of quarters. We are hopeful some of the investors we have spoken to will be interested in investing with us.

“Having said that, we also want to expand the investor base. There is a big group of investors who are not in Asia – and maybe they would like to be in Asia if there were appropriate products and strategies targeting their investment needs.”

One of Varsity Group’s first markets will be Japan. “Japan is begging for something different,” Desai said. “It has traditional residential and senior living, and we think there may be an opportunity to bring about some value-add to those asset classes.

“As the global macro-economic climate improves, we will look for opportunities in the living space in other markets like China, India and Singapore.”

Asked about fundraising ambitions for an initial vehicle, Desai said: “We are not chasing a number. What we are chasing is a relationship with institutional investors who are planning to allocate to the living sector as well as the broader alternative sectors.”

Desai left Allianz Real Estate in June last year, after building up the firm’s business in Asia-Pacific from scratch to US$10bn (€9.3bn) in six years.

Gaitanos, managing director and group CEO of Scape Australia, said: “Desai’s outstanding growth credentials, breadth of relationships and entrepreneurial skills will aid him in leading expansion of Varsity Group to become the Asia-Pacific alternatives real estate funds management business.”

Carracher, executive chairman of Scape Australia, said: “We are very pleased to collaborate with an industry leader like Rush Desai on our growth and diversification strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Having a presence in Singapore will help us expand our investor relations and sales and leasing networks.”

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