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Journey of Indian Origin Harry S. Banga among Richest people in Hong Kong

Harindarpal Singh Banga is among the list of Top 50 richest people according to Forbes Magazine

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Harry S. Banga is one of the richest people in Hong Kong
Harry S. Banga is one of the richest people in Hong Kong. Pixabay
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Hong Kong, Sep 11, 2017: He grew up in Chandigarh and never thought he would be a billionaire and one of the richest people in Hong Kong. But Harry S. Banga has done that successfully in the fields of commodities, ship management and asset management.

With a net worth of $1.02 billion, Harindarpal Singh Banga, as the chairman of the fairly young Caravel Group, not only figures among the list of Top 50 richest people (Forbes Magazine) in Hong Kong but is known as the tycoon who has staged a comeback in the commodities sector in a big way.

“It’s been a great journey. (I am) So proud of achieving what we have done. Obviously, there were a lot of ups and downs. Never realised on leaving Chandigarh that I will be where I am today. By the grace of god, it has been a wonderful and successful journey. One day I will write a book,” Banga told IANS during an interview in the swanky headquarters of the Caravel Group in the Central Plaza skyscraper in Hong Kong’s busy Wan Chai commercial area.

Banga, who started as a shippie, has reasons to feel proud.

He exited the Noble Group, in which he was a co-founder in 1988, just before it started crumbling on the business front. Setting up the Caravel Group in 2013 with an $800 million investment, Banga was soon back in the big league of Hong Kong billionaires early this year.

“We have three verticals within the Caravel Group. The first one is Asset Management. It is purely investing in liquid assets in equity, fixed income and debt investment and some private equity investment. The other part is brick and mortar business in Caravel International which has got two verticals. One is Caravel Resources under which we do the commodities business. Then we have Caravel Maritime and Caravel Fleet Management Limited.

“Today we are the third largest ship management company in the world. We have 450 ships under our management, close to $20 billion dollars of assets. Total officers and crew are about 18,000 — the majority of them from India,” he explained.

With operations spread in 19 countries across most continents, Banga says that doing business with China is easier.

“Seventy per cent of our total turnover comes from China. I have been dealing with China since 1983. Dealing with officials and corporates in China, I find them very easy to develop and do business with.

“Our business mainly focuses around China, which is the main consumer of commodities today. Today, we are the largest international trading company supplying iron ore to China. Total volume is 40 million tonnes. The originating countries are India, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Caravel Carbon does the thermal coal business. Sixty per cent of that goes into China and 40 percent to India to power plants, cement plants etc,” he said.

Though his company has offices in India, the business dealing is limited.

“While in other countries in Europe, Australia, America it is either a green light or red light — it is all very clear. Though in the last three years it is changing, in India it is permanent amber light. So, you don’t know if it is red or green. They do come with a policy in India but it takes a long time to understand that policy,” said Banga, who was honoured with the Pravasi Bharatiya Award in 2011 by the Indian government.

“Ours (India) is not easy. We have religion issues, caste issues, language issues, states have their own issues. All these things are very challenging. New Delhi takes decisions. The implementation is in districts. It is a very different world there (in the districts). In Beijing, one guy decides, everyone implements,” he said.

Banga is worried that too many young people in India are getting education and skills, but not enough jobs are available.

“In India, we have the beauty product and health product e-retail company called Nykaa. That is one of the major investments that we have,” he added.

Born in Amritsar, Banga, 66, did his schooling and bachelor of engineering in Chandigarh before moving out in the 1970s.

“I became the youngest captain at the age of 27-and-a-half. I worked with companies in London, Geneva and Hong Kong, where I arrived in 1984,” he said.

Among other things, Banga has an eye for contemporary paintings and antiques. (IANS)

 

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World’s First AI News Anchor Debuts From China

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

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AI News ANchor
Xinhua news anchor Qiu Hao stands next to an AI virtual news anchor based on him, at a Sogou booth during an expo at the fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China. VOA

China’s state-run Xinhua News has debuted what it called the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) anchor. But the novelty has generated more dislikes than likes online among Chinese netizens, with many calling the new virtual host “a news-reading device without a soul.”

Analysts say the latest creation has showcased China’s short-term progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, but challenges remain ahead for its long-term ambition of becoming an AI superpower by 2030.

Nonhuman anchors

Collaborating with Chinese search engine Sogou, Xinhua introduced two AI anchors, one for English broadcasts and the other for Chinese, both of which are based on images of the agency’s real newscasters, Zhang Zhao and Qiu Hao respectively.

In its inaugural broadcast last week, the English-speaking anchor was more tech cheerleader than newshound, rattling off lines few anchors would be caught dead reading, such as: “the development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies.”

AI News Anchor
This photo illustration shows a man watching an artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor from a state-controlled news broadcaster, on his computer in Beijing, VOA

It also promised “to work tirelessly to keep you [audience] informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted” 24/7 across multiple platforms simultaneously if necessary, according to the news agency.

No soul

Local audiences appear to be unimpressed, critiquing the news bots’ not so human touch and synthesized voices.

On Weibo, China’s Twitterlike microblogging platform, more than one user wrote that such anchors have “no soul,” in response to Xinhua’s announcement. And one user joked: “what if we have an AI [country] leader?” while another questioned what it stands for in terms of journalistic values by saying “What a nutcase. Fake news is on every day.”

Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

“It all comes down to production costs, which will determine if [we] lose jobs,” one Weibo user wrote. Some argued that only low-end labor-intensive jobs will be easily replaced by intelligent robots while others gloated about the possibility of employers utilizing an army of low-cost robots to make a fortune.

AI News ANchor
The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition. Flickr

A simple use case

Industry experts said the digital anchor system is based on images of real people and possibly animated parts of their mouths and faces, with machine-learning technology recreating humanlike speech patterns and facial movements. It then uses a synthesized voice for the delivery of the news broadcast.

The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, all of which is covered by natural language processing, according to Liu Chien-chih, secretary-general of Asia IoT Alliance (AIOTA).

But that’s just one of many aspects of AI technologies, he wrote in an email to VOA.

Given the pace of experimental AI adoption by Chinese businesses, more user scenarios or designs of user interface can be anticipated in China, Liu added.

Chris Dong, director of China research at the market intelligence firm IDC, agreed the digital anchor is as simple as what he calls a “use case” for AI-powered services to attract commercials and audiences.

AI News Anchor
Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

He said, in an email to VOA, that China has fast-tracked its big data advantage around consumers or internet of things (IoT) infrastructure to add commercial value.

Artificial Intelligence has also allowed China to accelerate its digital transformation across various industries or value chains, which are made smarter and more efficient, Dong added.

Far from a threat to the US

But both said China is far from a threat to challenge U.S. leadership on AI given its lack of an open market and respect for intellectual property rights (IPRs) as well as its lagging innovative competency on core AI technologies.

Earlier, Lee Kai-fu, a well-known venture capitalist who led Google before it pulled out of China, was quoted by news website Tech Crunch as saying that the United States may have created Artificial Intelligence, but China is taking the ball and running with it when it comes to one of the world’s most pivotal technology innovations.

Lee summed up four major drivers behind his observation that China is beating the United States in AI: abundant data, hungry entrepreneurs, growing AI expertise and massive government support and funding.

AI News Anchor
People watching the AI News Anchor

Beijing has set a goal to become an AI superpower by 2030, and to turn the sector into a $150 billion industry.

Yet, IDC’s Dong cast doubts on AI’s adoption rate and effectiveness in China’s traditional sectors. Some, such as the manufacturing sector, is worsening, he said.

He said China’s “state capitalism may have its short-term efficiency and gain, but over the longer-term, it is the open market that is fundamental to building an effective innovation ecosystem.”

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

Also Read: Heavy Cyber Attacks From Russia, US, China in India

“China’s ‘Made-in-China 2025’ should go back to the original flavor … no longer Made and Controlled by Chinese, but more [of] an Open Platform of Made-in-China that both local and foreign players have a level-playing field,” he said.

In addition to a significant gap in core technologies, China’s failure to uphold IPRs will go against its future development of AI software, “which is often sold many-fold in the U.S. than in China as the Chinese tend to think intangible assets are free,” AIOTA’s Liu said. (VOA)