Tanker Shipping & Trade’s Lifetime Achievement winner Kishore Rajvanshy says success has been built on organic growth, a refusal to use middlemen and being many years ahead of the curve on digitalisation
Our philosophy right from day one has been to develop business organically based on customer satisfaction.
Initially we got ships from my previous contacts in Norway and the Netherlands, and we developed these areas very well. Two years after the company was set up we started to explore the Japanese market. It was not easy, but we persevered. We visited Japan many, many times. Other companies like to have an agent in Japan. We chose to do it ourselves. None of us could speak any Japanese. Yet we thought it was always better for us to go and have direct contact with the owners, rather than going through a broker.
That approach did bring good results. It was initially very difficult to get the clients, but once we got our first one or two clients the rest was easy. We have the same Japanese clients 21 or 22 years down the line. And the same applies for the Norwegian and Dutch principals: we still manage ships for those who initially supported us.
The biggest challenge has been managing fast growth. Between January and November 2017 we had a net increase of 50 ships. We added about 70 ships and about 20 ships went out of management because of sales and purchase activity. There is a huge churn. A related challenge is to mobilise the manpower both on the ships and on shore. At every stage of shipmanagement your backbone is the crew. That is what you have to strengthen. You have to have training centres and a constant inflow of new blood, both in the office as well as on the ships.
These days everybody talks about big data and digitalisation. I think many people do not understand what they are talking about. At Fleet, we realised the importance of IT and computerisation way back in 2002, when we launched the first version of our computer-based reporting system. We called the system PARIS: planning and reporting for the infrastructure of ships.
Initially it was a very basic model with very basic information. Over the years we added more and more models. The idea was always to try and create a virtual office, meaning to have on the computer all the available data that any owner or any superintendent would like to see. Today PARIS is very advanced. We have everything you would want to have on the computer: the data about your crew, all the technical data, positions coming from the ship, speed, consumption, PSA records, certificates and surveys, financial reporting, planned maintenance systems, and inventory control. Everything is there on it, and this is a system that is all developed in-house. We have not bought any off-the-shelf elements. We are very proud of it. Many owners who have got ships for different managers have always told us that our system is head and shoulders above the rest.
So when it comes to digitalisation I think we have a competitive advantage formed over the last 15 years. But we have not sat on our record. We recently hired talented people for our IT department, which prior to the hiring round was 20-strong. Among the new recruits is a new CTO, and a data scientist who is going to guide us on how this data should be analysed and what advantages it can offer.
We are also in the process of developing a module for measuring fuel and power consumption. It will generate practical inferences that the captain and the ship superintendent can usefully apply to maximise vessel performance.