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Overseas Indian

Published on: Sept. 20, 2020, 11:29 p.m.
Billionaire Harry Banga's journey
  • Harry Banga: raising the bar

By Hemang Palan

With a net worth of $1.5 billion, 70-year-old Hong Kong resident Harry Banga currently ranks 1,415 on the Forbes billionaires list. Born in Amritsar and raised in Chandigarh, Banga was educated at the Training Ship Dufferin, India’s oldest maritime academy. He earned his Master Mariner certification in 1976 and was commanding merchant vessels by the age of 27. In 1979, he joined the Gulf group in Hong Kong as operations manager. The Gulf group was a Geneva-based international shipping and commodities business.

By the age of 30, Banga found himself at the top of his profession but was not yet satisfied with his accomplishments. It was then he decided to leave the merchant navy and experience something new. In 1979, he entered the corporate world by taking up a role in commercial shipping and commodity trading with the Gulf group, in London. The Gulf group was a Geneva-based international shipping and commodities business. This opportunity saw him gain a comprehensive global perspective as he worked extensively across Europe and Asia. These experiences eventually led him to settle in Hong Kong, where he has lived with his wife and two sons since 1985.

Banga quit the Gulf group in 1989 and became an early partner in Noble group in cooperation with a British trader, Richard Elman, helping to establish and lead Noble Chartering Limited. Noble group was a supply chain manager of agricultural, industrial and energy products, and Asia’s largest commodities trader. In 2010, Banga stepped down as vice-chairman of Noble group, but remained on the board as vice-chairman emeritus. In 2011, he purchased the Noble group’s ship management arm, Fleet Management Limited. Banga severed his ties with Noble in 2012.

Between April 2010 and November 2012, he sold his 11.5 per cent stake in Noble and earned $950 million. In 2013, he founded the Caravel group (named after a 15th and 16th century Portuguese exploration and trading vessel) in a posh building in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district, less than 500 metres from Noble’s offices, to bring under one corporate structure some of the previously owned businesses of the Banga family, such as Fleet Management, to begin realising synergies across these operating units. In addition, through his vision, he wanted to create a platform that would allow the Caravel group to take advantage of and capture certain long-term market opportunities and industry dislocations that he had begun to see at the time the group was formed.

The Caravel group today is a diversified global conglomerate with three main lines of business. Banga has been chairman and CEO of the group since its inception and continues to remain active, while at the same time guiding his younger son, Angad in the group’s day to day operations.

Caravel Maritime – into which Fleet Management Limited was injected in 2014 – encompasses the group’s maritime interests. Caravel Maritime also includes Caravel Shipping, which provides in-house and third-party dry bulk commercial and chartering services, as well as maritime asset ownership – Caravel has a growing fleet of its own vessels – and other maritime investments. Caravel Resources is engaged in the trading of industrial dry bulk commodities, with a focus on raw materials for steel making and power generation – principally iron ore, coal and coke. Caravel Asset Management makes direct investments in global liquid asset classes, as well as alternative investments such as private equity and hedge funds. Its portfolio includes strategic investments in selected growth businesses such as ‘Nykaa’ – an Indian retail seller of beauty, wellness and fashion products. The Caravel group has been an investor since 2014 in this company. In India, Caravel Asset Management has also co-invested with KKR in Max Healthcare, in addition to other, select investments.
 
Ship management services

A well-known name in the Indian ship management sector, an employer of thousands of Indian seafarers and having offices in many cities across India, The Caravel group’s Fleet Management offers a comprehensive range of ship management services tailored to each vessel owner’s needs, including technical and engineering services, crew training and management, new building supervision, insurance, independent surveys, audits and commercial management. As the world’s leading, largest independent third-party ship management company, Fleet Management currently manages a range of cargo ships including bulk carriers, container vessels, car carriers, oil tankers, gas carriers and chemical tankers. They range from 300 to 319,000 DWT, many of them young and energy-efficient, with an age profile below the industry average. The company manages the largest number of chemical tankers, medium-range tankers, geared bulk carriers and ultra large container vessels in the world.

Fleet Management’s maritime training arm, Fleet Management Training Institute based in Navi Mumbai, currently performs training activities for seafarers under the framework of national and international merchant shipping rules. Approved by the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India, this premier institute offers various courses that primarily focus on safety, security, environment protection, pollution prevention and efficiency aboard cargo ships.

Outside India, the group has also invested in Palantir Technologies (expected to achieve a public listing shortly) and Hong Kong’s largest craft brewery, Young Master Ales. Launched in 2013 in the Hong Kong SAR, Young Master Brewery was one of the earliest craft breweries in Hong Kong, providing consumers with truly distinctive high-quality beers, including a changing roster of specialty products. Today it is the largest, most awarded and one of the most respected craft breweries in the region. The Caravel group is a partner in this inspiring success story since 2015.
 
Driving economic development

Banga says: “Our organisation will continue to be focused on providing leading maritime services, facilitating the supply chain logistics of industrial dry bulk commodities, while also investing in both through public and private markets opportunities that we believe diversifies the overall group, but are also seen as complementary to our business. Earnings will continue to be made up of service-based fees, trading and investment gains, and asset-based income.”

Banga has been instrumental in the advancement of Indian commerce on a global scale. He has been a key architect in the development of export markets for Indian raw materials, such as iron ore, and has also helped drive India’s economic development through the provision of long term supplies of key commodities such as coal & coke to fuel India’s power demand, and soybean and other agricultural products to satiate India’s growing population and the resulting demand for food and nutrition.

“I am sure that the way and manner in which we conduct our business has, and will change. Facilitating global trade through blockchain, conducting remote inspections of vessels, remote and virtual training for seafarers, etc, are all part of what a post-pandemic world looks like for the Caravel group,” he adds.

The Caravel group and Fleet Management are partners of the Getting to Zero Coalition, launched on 23 September 2019 by Global Maritime Forum, together with the UN Climate Action Summit. The Getting to Zero Coalition aims to lead the push for shipping’s decarbonisation with the mutual goal of having commercially viable zero-emission vessels operating along deep-sea trade routes by 2030. The Getting to Zero Coalition is a powerful alliance of more than 120 companies within the maritime, energy, infrastructure and finance sectors, supported by key governments. The Coalition is committed to getting commercially viable deep sea zero emission vessels powered by zero emission fuels, into operation.

Banga is also known for his philanthropy, exercised primarily through The Caravel group’s charitable arm, the Caravel Foundation which was established to institutionalise the philanthropic efforts of the Caravel group and his own personal contributions. He says: “Education and healthcare for underprivileged children in India and Hong Kong is the focus of the Caravel Foundation. It is important to understand that whilst we pursue our dreams, work hard and honestly, we should always try and help those less fortunate. As such, my wife, Indra and I were always motivated by giving back to those less fortunate than ourselves and got involved in many philanthropic projects early in our lives. Over time these have grown exponentially.”

The Caravel Foundation has established endowed scholarships for the education of underprivileged children from India, Hong Kong and China at leading universities in the United States including Dartmouth College, Duke University and Princeton University. Furthermore, the Caravel Foundation has established the Indra & Harry Banga Gallery (formerly known as the CityU Exhibition Gallery) by fostering its long-term development in driving innovation, enhancing the integration of art and science, and preserving cultural heritage for the world.

In 2011, Banga was honoured with the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award’, the highest distinction conferred by the Indian government on overseas Indians, for his outstanding achievements in the field of business, valuable contribution in promoting the honour and prestige of India and in fostering the needs of overseas Indians.

Among other things, Banga has an eye for contemporary paintings and antiques, as well as being known to have a fond appreciation for single malt whisky.

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