Working unpaid jobs resulted in wealth as a private equity investor
8 min read
06 September 2016
Bhanu Choudhrie is a director at London-headquartered private equity firm C & C Alpha Group, which has investments globally. And while money isn’t a problem for him now, his humble beginnings in unpaid jobs, such as car valet for his father, means he understands the true value of money as an investor.
However, with Choudhrie providing investments and advice to growing companies globally, tapping into markets including the US, India and south east Asia, he is also well-placed to offer insights on the lavish lifestyle wise business decisions can create.
Speaking with Real Business, he revealed the details on what he considers to be his biggest successes and the rewards that come alongside them.
(1) Were you born into wealth or has your success been self-made?
I certainly realise I had a fortunate start in life, but I come from a family that believes in hard work and achievement, so I have always been taught to respect hard work and the value of money. My father is a self-made entrepreneur who has enjoyed a very successful business career, but I like to think I have made my own mark, which has been based on the values he taught me.
(2) How much did your first job pay?
I worked during my university days in the library, which was unpaid. I also worked with my father as a boy in the garage maintaining his vintage cars. I am still waiting for the pay cheque for that one!
(3) You have achieved success across industries with investments in healthcare, hospitality, aviation, property, agriculture and utilities. Which market has been the most lucrative for you and why?
As a business we only stay invested in successful enterprises and we look for lucrative markets based on market trends and careful analysis. Property investments in the US, through our New York-based business, Megalith Capital Management, have been extremely lucrative.
Our niche markets in the UAE in aviation and utilities have brought hard-earned capital returns based on long-term investment, careful nurturing, business understanding and real relationships with our partners. In these tough markets we have enjoyed continued success, which is more rewarding than making a quick return.
I am particularly excited about the growth trajectory of Alpha Aviation, our pilot training business, which is working with major airlines in the Middle East and south east Asia.
(4) What has business leadership taught you about money management?
The responsibility of managing big investments and being answerable to a board of directors is something I don’t take lightly. It’s all about calculating and sometimes the risk is worth taking and becomes very profitable. But you have to know the risk before taking the plunge.
(5) Tell us about your smartest investments?
I have enjoyed particular success in the US where I am a director of Customers Bank in Pennsylvania and the Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation in Florida. I made the investments because I could see an opportunity in the way American banking was changing. Customers, for instance, is aimed at millennials – we are pioneers of cutting-edge virtual banking.
An investment I made into Villa Azur Restaurant in Miami has also been a great personal success as the place has become so popular and enjoyed longevity in an ultra-competitive market place.
(6) Do you get more satisfaction from spending or saving your money?
Without one you can’t have the other. So saving for something hard makes the satisfaction of the purchase all the greater.
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(7) What’s the most exciting element of running a business?
The variety and scope of venture capitalism is the real attraction so one day you can be closing on a new hospitality investment and the next talking about a new piece of aircraft simulation kit.
You have to be well versed in an array of often specialist markets which keeps you on your toes. The entrepreneurial spirit with which I have grown up and inherited, lends itself to keeping things exciting and challenging. Working with bright people is always the key to success.
(8) What are your most expensive hobbies?
I have always loved sport, so skiing and car racing are two hobbies I have always kept up as a release from the business world. I love being outdoors and enjoy exhilarating sports. I have also owned and ridden horses since childhood and played polo. Horses are expensive animals to maintain, but give back so much pleasure.
(9) Most prized possession?
As a graduation gift, I received an original work of art from the well-known Indian artist, M.F Hussain, a dear family friend. He has since died so I cherish it more than money. Although it has a significant monetary value, I would never dream of selling it.
(10) Do you have a favourite luxury brand?
I always have to namecheck Apple as it is the zeitgeist of the modern era and bridges the gap between affordable and luxury. Apple became a luxury brand when they invented the Apple Watch.
I like Berlutti for Italian tailoring and handmade leather, I like the tradition of what is behind a brand such as that. I also like Dolce and Gabbana.
(11) Where has been your most luxurious holiday taken you?
I am lucky to have vested interests in some beautiful hotels, such as the award-winning Shanti Maurice in Mauritius and Ananda in the Himalayas. I feel privileged to be able to go there – all the staff know my family and take great care of us.
(12) Excluding property, what has been your most expensive purchase?
It has to be the engagement ring I bought for my wife, which was a heart-shaped diamond. I was young then so it seemed like a big purchase – but the outcome was very positive!
If you now fancy jetting off somewhere as appealing as Mauritius, you should find some inspiration from the most popular destinations for luxury adventures and the activities of choice.