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Tarun Ghulati: Master of reinvention

Entrepreneurs 08-05-2018

Tarun Ghulati has had a prolific career in investment banking and corporate finance. Now he’s giving back through education, as well as helping affluent heirs start their own businesses.

Tarun Ghulati lends his expertise in strategy and business development, launches diverse businesses and creates strategic partnerships worldwide. His energy is bounteous, his mind razor sharp and his experience intimidating.

Born in India, Tarun has worked in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Africa. His CV is long but here is a snapshot: he worked for Citibank in India, where he ran several businesses as Head of Sales and Distribution and Head of Credit and Risk. At HSBC, he was an International Manager, which meant he was parachuted in to spearhead businesses across the world. As Operations Manager International, HSBC, with responsibility for 15 countries across Asia Pacific, he guided CEOs with their operating plans and ensured implementation in conjunction with the overall strategic plan of the bank. He also worked on several acquisitions for HSBC, including the US$33 billion consolidation of Marine Midland Bank USA with HSBC Bank USA. As Head of HSBC Premier, he managed clients’ assets of over US$40 billion. He was then headhunted as Global CEO UTI International Ltd, subsidiary of India’s largest asset management company, managing assets of over US$2.4 billion with offices in London, Guernsey, Singapore, Dubai, Bahrain and Mauritius.

He has sat on more than 30 boards in the UK, Guernsey, Singapore, Mauritius, Kenya and Botswana. In recognition of his work in building alliances and businesses with Asia, he was invited to become a committee member of the London Chamber of Commerce Asian Business Association. He is also a member of the UK Trade and Investment Global Entrepreneur India Advisory Group.

AWM caught up with Tarun, aka Mr Unstoppable, who took British citizenship and now lives in St John’s Wood, London, to find out what he’s up to next.

What’s next for you after taking early retirement from banking?

You don’t really retire once you understand money. I am constantly engaged in discussions with banks, fund managers, private equity firms, family offices and other financial service entities. Money is essential to keep engines greased. This is the stuff that keeps me busy these days.

As president and CEO of Squared Watermelon, a company I recently co-founded, we assist clients internationally with their strategy, business development, marketing and branding. We make the journey easier for start-ups looking to give their fledgling businesses a story.

I am also championing education and empowering the young. I am co-founder and chairman of the Corporate Training Academy (CTA), providing a platform for students to accelerate into the banking and financial services industry.

As a finance catalyst and visionary leader, how do you help people and businesses maximise their money and potential?

There are many who are lulled into thinking that their businesses will continue to provide strong returns. However, they may have a catalogue of concerns. Revenues may be slipping, market share dropping or competition stealing a march. This is where I come in to create a strategy, without hiding behind jargon, with a focus on achieving results. Resources can be marshalled differently and business units can fire on all cylinders by using competencies for competitive advantage.

There are other businesses sitting on dry powder, essentially cash reserves. They may be looking to buy an entity or seeking alternative investment ideas. I see deal flows all the time and bring interested parties together. Getting through to decision makers at banks may appear more onerous these days given the regulations. Navigating the challenges of getting money can be daunting. I do not provide financial advice. I only provide the bridge that links the entity to the financial institution.

Your attention has turned to the transition of wealth – those in line to inherit a fortune.

Yes, I am increasingly involved in creating a ‘smooth transition’ as the old order changeth. There is around US$30 trillion of combined wealth in the hands of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals globally. This wealth is projected to grow dramatically. I am engaged in this passage of wealth between baby boomers (born between the years 1946 and 1964) and the next generation. It is estimated that over the next 30 years around US$16 trillion (38%) of the global wealth will be transferred.

Many heirs are looking to go into business themselves. Can you give an example of how you’ve mentored heirs cutting their teeth in business?

This new generation is highly adventurous and not risk averse. They have some very creative ideas and energetic enthusiasm.

I was approached by an affluent businessman, who was concerned that his only heir showed no interest in the family business. The son wanted to pursue a completely different line of business, which his father considered a waste of time and resources. I met the son and after winning his trust we worked on creating a robust plan and strategy. I also helped with the branding and connected him to several banks. We then presented the idea to the reluctant father and convinced him to invest an additional US$10 million in the project. The son is now successfully running the business and, is not only a well-honed businessman, but slowly grasping the reins of the family business too.

Any tips on staying at the top of your game?

I have a simple mantra: ‘Excellence is not an act, but a habit’. I wake up early in the morning, with a positive attitude, ready to go the extra mile. This keeps me ahead of the game. I get immense satisfaction from meeting successful individuals from all walks of life; they could be young entrepreneurs, industrialists, chief executives, politicians, artists or sports personalities. I imbibe and learn from these interactions, keeping my mind fresh and agile.

I understand you’re writing a book. What’s it about?

It is an essential handbook of mantras. It should assist those who are trying to go through doors that are not getting any wider, showcase tangible solutions not ‘pain killers’. Riding a tailwind with aplomb is a barometer of confidence, but handling headwinds without clutching at straws in desperation is what makes winners.

What other exciting ventures are you contemplating?

Talks are ongoing to open a bank, which will primarily provide clients with merchant banking and investment banking services. This entails intense and rigorous assessment. Watch this space!

An Africa-focused infrastructure fund is also on the anvil. Discussions are underway and should soon gather momentum.


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