When Lincoln International lured Janki Gandhi away Sage Group in September 2016, she became one of the youngest managing directors ever hired by the middle-market investment bank. But Gandhi had already amassed a portfolio of more than 40 retail sector deals for well-known private equity firms, such as TA Associates, Snow Phipps Group, and TSG Consumer Partners.
Another notable client is Los Angeles-based retailer Paige. Formerly known as Paige Denim, the company was launched in 2004 by Paige Adams-Geller, its creative director, and her husband, Michael Geller, the retailer’s CEO. In 2012, during Paige’s transition from a denim brand to a lifestyle brand, Gandhi advised the company on a deal to sell a stake to TSG.
Gandhi has also worked with Serge Azria, an industry veteran who, in 2007, started building fashion brands, such as Joie and Current/Elliott, under Dutch LLC of Vernon, California. Gandhi helped advise Dutch on a 2012 deal to sell 60 percent of the company to TA Associates for $550 million. She calls Azria one of the insightful merchants she’s ever known, using his intimate knowledge of product and consumers to build a highly profitable business.
Among her current projects, Gandhi is working on sell-side mandates for a well-known fashion brand and a beauty and personal care company. For these and some other potential retail deals in her pipeline the big issue is timing.
Pointing to recent middle-market sector deals, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) $310 million acquisition of online men’s retailer Bonobos Inc., and Kay Jewelers owner Signet Jewelers Ltd.’s $328 million purchase of the online diamond shop JamesAllen.com, Gandhi notes that “Retail has changed dramatically in the last 12 to 24 months with direct-to-consumer and online delivery. The end consumer does not have time to shop, and whatever time they have, they want to focus on experience.”
One of the reasons Gandhi made the move to Lincoln was the firm’s flexibility in terms of providing work-life balance, and she wants to assure other young women that they can succeed in the finance industry and still start a family.
“The finance world is known for its rigorous environment,” Gandhi notes, “and because of that, a lot of women have shied away. But I think more firms are starting to pay attention and figure out how to provide that work-life balance.”
Another tip, she offers, is that women shouldn’t try and take on everything themselves. “I think women in general will try to take on quite a bit,” she says. “They shouldn’t be afraid to delegate to their other colleagues.”