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Double acquisition creates brand new firm

The simultaneous acquisitions of Karlson and collaboration solution specialists Intevi, has created a new consultancy and technology business. Aura is the culmination of a joint vision shared by the former leadership team of a FTSE plc. Michelle Ryder spoke to CEO Alpesh Unalkat, to find out more about the firm’s strategy to reimagine future workspaces and build a £200 million+ business in five years

Unalkat is a well-known name in the print industry, he was formerly CEO of Capita’s managed print business, a role that also came about on the back of an acquisition. Capita purchased Right Document Solutions, an independent Canon, Kyocera, Ricoh and Sharp reseller and a company in which Unalkat was a director and shareholder in 2011. Over the next seven years, under his helm, Capita acquired Complete Imaging, evolved from a print only business, rebranded as Capita Workplace Technology and quadrupled in size, to become a £50+ million business.

Aura is the brainchild of Alpesh Unalkat, Sajan Shivshanker and Steven Hallissey, all of whom worked together at Capita. “We have a shared vision to capitalise on the opportunity to reimagine the future workspace, bringing together a unique combination of products and services, and using our expertise to integrate these seamlessly for our clients,” Unalkat explained.

With this in mind the trio formed a project team and worked with Deloitte LLP to construct a solid strategy and business plan to create a company that specialises in and brings together workspace design, collaboration solutions, workflow and management print services, digital media services and transformation management.

The next step was to secure investment to form a new company. The venture is backed by Baird Capital, which has raised and managed more than £2.4 billion and invested in nearly 300 portfolio companies since 1989.

Karlson and Intevi were handpicked as two complementary and pioneering businesses to join them on that journey and become the platform for growth. “There were several factors that attracted us to both firms,” Unalkat said. “Both organisations are very good at what they do, are consultative, service driven, have a strong culture and serve larger clients. Additionally, both firms are similar in terms of headcount and revenue.”

Karlson’s Managing Director Martyn Kidd and Director Stephen Todd both welcomed the opportunity and have invested in the creation of Aura and joined its Board, as have Intevi co-founders Adam Wilson and Tom Scott, together with Stuart Beere, formerly of Deloitte LLP. The remaining three directors of Karlson are also investing in the new business including co-founder William Todd. And importantly, all employees have become part of Aura through this deal. “We are delighted that the owners have reinvested, we are committed to maintaining all current operations and making further investment in infrastructure and people,” Unalkat said.

As a consultancy and technology provider offering a full end-to-end service for clients from consultancy to integration, Aura has an ambitious buy and build programme to create a business worth over £200 million within five years. Unalkat said that it will achieve this through a combination of strong organic growth and a series of strategic acquisitions. He confirmed that the company is already in discussions with similar businesses with a view to progressing with further acquisitions in the near future.

The original plan was to operate in the UK, but thanks largely to Intevi’s global presence which spans the UK, US, Spain and Poland, the newly-formed business will operate across six offices globally, servicing 300 large clients in over 60 countries with plans to continue expansion across the globe.

“With private equity backing, two complementary businesses as the foundation for growth and the entrepreneurial spirit and track record of those involved, we have huge aspirations for Aura in reimagining the future of workspaces,” Unalkat said.

“The business world has been facing a number of challenges in adapting to changing working practices, no more so than now. Bringing together changing generational attitudes in the workplace, being agile as to how and where people work and injecting greater connectivity to ensure that no matter where people are they feel part of something, can create huge differentiation in organisations,” he concluded.

The Aura Futures operating board includes Alpesh Unalkat (CEO), Sajan Shivshanker (COO), Steven Hallissey (CFO), Martyn Kidd (Chief Commercial Officer), Tom Scott (Chief Technology Officer), Adam Wilson (Chief Sales Officer – Collaboration), Stephen Todd (Chief Sales Officer – Workflow/MPS) and Stuart Beere (Director of M&A/Integration).