Interviews

Interview: Rahul ‘Richie’ Nanda

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Rahul ‘Richie’ Nanda has been the global chairman of Topsgrup, India’s largest security company, for over 20 years. Valued at £168m by the Sunday Times Rich List last year and £187m in 2013, Richie increased his fortune by £20m in less than a year and over time has amassed numerous awards including National Security Today’s ‘Award for the Best Security Personality of the Year 2007’, the Frost and Sullivan Award for ‘Best Manned Guarding Company (2008)’ and Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the inaugural TiE UK Annual Awards (2011). Most recently he completed the acquisition of British security firm The Shield Group, which has been a hugely successful driver in the UK security industry. SYB managed to get past Richie’s security team to gain some insight into UK safety…

When you were just 16 years old, unfortunate circumstances led you to taking over the management of the family restaurant, TUTKUKS. Can you tell us what this experience taught you?

My introduction to the business world was anything but gentle. When I was 16, my father suffered a stroke, which led to me taking control of his share in a chain of Chinese restaurants. I also then suffered another setback when my father’s partner took over the majority of the Mumbai based chain. Instead of feeling beat, I used this opportunity to prove myself and with just one restaurant left, I worked hard to improve the business and it really taught me how to build something from scratch; that gave me the confidence in later business ventures. My family members were so impressed that after two years they decided I should run the other family business – a security firm called TOPS Security Guard (TSG).

When you took charge, it wasn’t making much money. Why was it failing?

When I took over the company, it was a complete mess. There were only two employees and one client and I had the task ahead of me of completely modernising the whole operation. I bought new uniforms, trained my staff to be polite and hired employees who could speak English. It was this strategy that helped me win my first major deal with the hotel group JW Marriot which raised our profile among all the high net worth businessmen staying at the hotel.

The restaurant went from making £150 a day to £25 000 a day in six years of you running the business. How did you know what to do? 

I have always believed in my own intuition and this is so important when running a business.  You have to believe in the risks you are taking in order for them to come true. Hard work, persistence and determination pays off in the long run as it did for me.

How did you make the staff listen to the changes you wanted to make?

Through sheer determination, motivation and belief in my idea’s and strategy. You have to believe in your own strategy before you can convince others to follow suit and I have never doubted my intuition for business. Your staff is so important because without them, you can’t provide a good service. I therefore ensured to motivate them at every level through training and support in their careers.

What did your father think of your successes?

I hope I made him proud! I have him to thank for instilling me with the correct values and ethics that have brought me to where I am today.

Do you think having royal heritage means you were always destined for success?

Personally I don’t believe that heritage will ever mean that one is destined for success. Yes, there may be a positive association with a family name but we all suffer our own highs and low’s in life and it is only you that can determine your destiny. I have always wanted to be successful and I have had to work hard earning my own merit to achieve this.

How has you Indian work ethic contributed to the business, and what can other entrepreneurs learn from this?

If you’re successful in Mumbai, which is full of obstacles and bureaucracy and a million other things, you can succeed anywhere. On reflection it made the UK venture seem easy in comparison. However I do feel that Indians too have a very positive work ethic and they really do not take no for an answer, ensuring we are persistent and determined to do well.

Have you experienced any cultural difficulties when acquiring the UK based business?

Yes, absolutely. There will always be cultural differences in the way companies run. The main difficulties we actually experienced were cultural in nature and the main issue was to address social and cultural issues of the two merging companies, ensuring the staff in the UK were comfortable with the brand. Motivated and loyal staff is key in the security industry and was therefore something we planned early.

When buying The Shield Group we looked at cultural fit, management style similarities, the social climate surrounding the acquisition and the internal communication structures to keep staff informed at all times of the positive changes.

How do you identify a company for acquisition?

Like several other entrepreneurs, I have had first-hand experience of the profound negative impact the economic downturn has on business. In 2008 I had been on the verge of acquiring a $500 million American security group when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Our ambitious endeavour to turn TOPSGRUP into a global giant looked to be over.

Moving forward, we had to be extra cautious with our spend, costs and profits, and since being a part of a supply and demand chain, we had various external as well internal factors and nuances to contend with due to the volatile nature of the economy.

At 22, you joined another family business; TOPSGRUP. What made you make the transition from the food industry to security?

I have always had a dream to be a successful entrepreneur, as I have always had the hunger to change the world for the better, give my employees opportunities to achieve their dreams and have pride in the work they are doing. I feel I have a natural flair for enterprise; be it in any field, food, security or movies.

Currently, the TOPSGRUP portfolio comprises of some major clients, including Microsoft and IBM. Why do you think they use you?

Personally, I am an extremely driven and motivated individual and my aim has always been to make TOPSGRUP the best security company in the world. I have a desire and passion to make the world a safer place for its citizens and I think this shines through in my work ethic and determination. Continuous innovation and self-motivated employees have been paramount in ensuring that the company is striving towards our global vision. I have always treated security as a science and I think by viewing the industry in this way have created a 360 degree security service under one roof that clients trust and admire.

Would you like to tell us more about the Shield Group?

The Shield Group is the one of the UK’s leading providers of total security solutions and has been at the forefront of the security industry since its inception over 25 years ago.

The business has grown by delivering high-level service, retaining customers and winning new accounts. The Shield Group stands out from its competitors by our ability to provide a comprehensive range of security solution to match our customers’ requirements nationally.

We are experts in the provision of the complete range of security services, including manned guarding, reception services, remote monitoring, training, vetting and screening, consultancy, investigations, personal and executive protection, and event management.

You made the 2012 and 2013 Sunday Times Rich List last year. How has this affected your status in the industry?

Creating wealth is not as difficult as maintaining wealth. Yes I’m in the Sunday Times Rich List, but your objectives have to be clear. You do business in the same way you always do.  Status will not affect my decision-making. I appreciate my position but I still believe in the ‘art of saving money’. Just because I have it, it doesn’t mean I throw it away.

Men typically dominate the security industry. Is this changing or do you think this has largely remained the same?

This is definitely changing. With the increase in technological advances and training, we are now finding a growing number of women at not only at the guarding level but the corporate level too. We have an equal opportunities policy in place throughout the business and in fact we are committed to giving female and males an equal chance to do well in their workplace. We also have a good proportion of females in our management team.

The ambition for the company is to become the world’s number one in global security by 2020. How exactly are you going to ensure you achieve this goal?  

I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe in reaching this goal. I intend to increase the group’s global footprints through continuing to be innovative and pioneering into new avenues within security such as technology and high-end consultancy. We are looking to change the perspective and way people look at the security industry.

What is your main priority in business?

My main priority in business is to ensure that The Shield Group & TOPSGRUP are not just leading security providers but also businesses that provide a first class service to customers and employees. Personally, I am a very hands-on, committed, ethical, ambitious and an innovative leader, who never takes ‘no’ for an answer and believes in not going around the hurdles or impediments but in breaking all such barriers and going right through them.

On a personal note, you have recently moved into a lavish new home. How does this reflect you and your life so far?

I think the move was a positive one for me. I am enjoying all the various experiences I am being exposed to in the UK. It’s great to open doors to new cultures not only for my business but for my family as well. We have adjusted well to life in the UK, and we look forward to all the opportunities the UK has to offer us.

Finally, have you any tips for businesses trying to ride out the recession?

To have a successful business, you have to learn to trust your gut instinct – and be able to take risks to get to the top. Also relying on your intuition will enable you to make your own mistakes and learn from them.

The key to success for businesses – and to survive in the marketplace – is to try and differentiate a brand from other similar products and services on the market. For this you need to really think out of the box to find your cutting edge. It is imperative for fledging start-ups, who are just unfolding their business wings, to research carefully and identify a niche in the market and play up to this with a methodical and sustainable financial, marketing and publicity plan.

We at The Shield Group are doing well because of our focus on innovation and quality services. The economy cannot always be booming: it’s cyclical – so you have to adapt your business accordingly. We work to understand our customer, the competition and thrive on pro-active innovation.

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