Home Insights & Advice Bhanu Choudhrie shares his path to success and philanthropy

Bhanu Choudhrie shares his path to success and philanthropy

by John Saunders
30th Jan 20 1:40 pm

While becoming a financial success, it is important to also remember to give back. One of the best ways to give back is through philanthropy that helps poor children and provides a career path for aspiring young adults to follow.

Bhanu Choudhrie’s philanthropic efforts focus on helping children, both disabled and abled young adults to make their dreams come true. “It is Hindu philosophy that the more you give, the more you get,” says Choudhrie. “When I was a child, we used to visit the blind, the handicapped, and schools where kids were without parents. It is about taking care of other individuals, and to cherish what you have, you must take care of them.”

Is there a path to success for all children?

A child may be poor, disabled, and have a lack of opportunities. Something taken for granted in developing countries, such as getting an education, may be nearly impossible for such a child to achieve. In India, a child whose family is so poor that they cannot afford to buy a school uniform for their child means the child may not able to attend school.

Often, very young children in India must work to bring whatever meager amount they can earn or do whatever they can to help their family members who suffer so much trying to survive. If a child has physical or mental disabilities, the situation is even worse.

Even with such disadvantages, many of these children have a significant advantage over their counterparts in more-developed countries. They have an intense desire to go to school and to learn.

Visit any public elementary school in the UK or the US and you are likely to observe a group of unruly children with far less desire to learn. They may take school for granted and even dislike it, as learning is something they are forced to do, with no real enthusiasm for being there. If they only knew how much a poor child dreams of going to school, they would be truly ashamed of themselves for acting in such a way.

When a child has almost nothing, school is like a holiday and far better than working under horrible conditions. There are friends to be made in school, sports to play, and many things to learn about. By going to school, the imagination of that child gets to grow with endless curiosity.

All that child needs is a chance to go to school and find a path to success. It is important to recognize that a desire to learn combined with insatiable curiosity may bloom with a very powerful result, no matter how humble the beginnings of a child. Some of the world’s greatest leaders have emerged from the poorest conditions because of this inner strength.

The beginnings of path to success

In London, during 2005, Path to Success (PTS) was founded by Bhanu Choudhrie’s mother, Anita Choudhrie. She says the inspiration for helping others came from her grandfather.

PTS helps those with challenges who live in the UK and other countries in three ways:

  1. Provide educational opportunities to those who dare not take it for granted.
  2. Help people with disabilities.
  3. Support those who have limited financial resources and have long-term healthcare needs.

For almost 20 years, Path to Success has continued to make positive, life-changing impacts on many in the UK and India. Anita says, “As one person, I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.”

The founding principles of Path to Success include:

  • Inspire people to help others.
  • Teach those in need how to help themselves.
  • Uphold traditional values and embrace multiculturalism.

Some Path to Success projects are:

  • Path to Tokyo 2020: Support for female athletes in disability sports that wish to represent Team GB in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the events of Para Power-Lifting, Para Badminton, Wheelchair Basketball, and Wheelchair Tennis.
  • Action for Kids: This program provides custom mobility equipment and motorized wheelchairs for children and young adults.
  • London Titans: This is a wheelchair basketball club.
  • Amar Jyoti Trust: Support is given as a patron for this school in India that started in 1981 with lessons given outside, under a tree, to 20 disabled children. Now, it has over 700 students from nursery school age to thirteen years old. Its motto is “Accept, Empower, and Integrate” children who are physically and mentally challenged.
  • St. Wilfred’s Residential: This is a residential home in Sheffield, England made for vulnerable, socially-isolated, homeless people.
  • KidsOut: This project’s mission is to bring smiles at Christmas to children who have escaped domestic abuse.
  • “60 FOR 60”: To honor the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, this project raised more than £100,000 to pay for highly-customized wheelchairs for challenged patients in 60 NHS hospitals.
  • World Crisis: Emergency funds were raised to support natural disaster relief efforts in Myanmar, the Philippines, and Haiti (in coordination with the Andrea Bocelli Foundation).
  • “I-CAN”: This supported the UK’s national effort called, “A Million Lost Voices,” to help primary school children who have communication difficulties.

Following family tradition, Bhanu Choudhrie continues the work of Path to Success in alignment with the organisation’s logo, which is “Turning Inability Into Ability.”

Contributions of Bhanu Choudhrie

Bhanu Choudhrie serves as the director of the family-owned private investment firm C&C Alpha Group that he founded in London during 2002. This firm has many global investments in a variety of industry sectors that include aviation, agriculture, healthcare, hospitality, real estate, and utilities.

A dream of flying

A young person may look up at the sky and dream of flying. Maybe, first like a bird and then as the pilot of a jet for an airline, which is the next best thing. In 2005, Bhanu Choudhrie founded the Alpha Aviation Group Ltd. (AAG) because of his love of flying, which led to the business opportunity to train pilots for the emerging expansion of airlines domiciled in South East Asia and the Middle East.

Alpha Aviation Group

Bhanu Choudhrie realised his passion for flying could come true by investing in a tiny Indian airline called Air Deccan. It was operating a single commercial plane. The timing of his purchase of the company was excellent. Thereafter, air travel in India rapidly expanded. There were some setbacks, such as severely reduced passengers due to the higher airline ticket pricing required when the oil price hit US$150 a barrel; however, the airline survived.

After the price of oil came down, the operations expanded to offer 200 flights each day and transport up to seven million passengers annually. Then, he sold the company to Kingfisher. While owning Air Deccan, he was also clever enough to notice the expansion of commercial airlines in South East Asia was being severely hampered by a lack of qualified professional pilots.

In an interview with The Wealth Scene, Bhanu Choudhrie commented that by 2034, there would be a need for over half a million more commercial pilots in South East Asia. The need for new pilots was especially high in India, China, and Japan.

To solve this problem, AAG started a new pilot academy, which quickly became the leader in commercial airline pilot training for the region and beyond. It is the only flight school in the Philippines that is accredited for ISO 9001:2015 pilot training.

Commercial aviation in India continues to grow, and the pilots trained by AAG are now helping many commercial airlines expand operations in South East Asia and the Middle East. The prediction is that about half the global growth in the aviation sector will come from this part of the world. Close to three billion people will soon join the middle class and be new customers for air travel. AAG is well-positioned to provide the pilots needed for this market growth.

Bhanu Choudhrie created partnerships between AAG and commercial airlines that include Air Arabia, VietJet Air, Jet Airways, Philippine Airlines, and VietJet Air as well as the jet manufacturing companies of Airbus and Boeing. More than 800 pilots graduated from AAG who are now employed by these airlines.

A dream come true for aspiring pilots

AAG has training programs that allow newcomers to begin a career in aviation. Training can be financed for those who attend the school in the Philippines. AAG takes its corporate social responsibility seriously. The company helps others by using public outreach and sponsoring public service programs that inspire youth to follow their dreams to become a pilot.

For those who cannot afford to enter the program due to financial limitations, Alpha Aviation provides educational grants to aspiring young pilots.

Reducing poverty in developing economies

Bhanu Choudhrie, through his private wealth management company, C&C Alpha Group, sponsors the annual Oxford’s Templeton Green College’s Emerging Markets Symposium (EMS). Since 2008, this effort has continued to organises research and policy positions toward human welfare issues in emerging economies. For example, the 2014 symposium was on maternal and child health and nutrition.

International sports

In 2010, Bhanu Choudhrie was the chair for the advisory board for the 2010 Commonwealth Games that were held in Delhi, India. The Commonwealth Games is an international competition that invites athletes from countries in the Commonwealth of Nations to participate, which has 53 member countries. The event has been held in a different country in the Commonwealth every four years since 1930.

All countries in the Commonwealth have an equal say regardless of the country’s size or economy. All member states agree to follow the Commonwealth Charter. In addition to holding a sports event every four years, representatives meet every two years to discuss global policy issues.

Healthcare and medical research

The Choudhrie family was very grateful that Bhanu’s father was able to have a life-saving heart transplant at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Funding is provided under Bhanu’s guidance to the Columbia University Medical Center and to the Brigham Women’s Hospital located in Boston for research into heart disease caused by genetic conditions that can be discovered in childhood.

Hard work and learning the value of money

Even though his family had plenty of money, Bhanu worked as a car valet under the guidance of his father. He did not receive pay because that was not the point of the effort. The goal was to learn the value of hard work. This infusion of a valuable work ethic helped him stayed grounded.

The lessons learned when young also included helping others with charitable efforts. From this strong foundation, he was able to understand the importance of managing wealth in alignment with the philosophic principles taught by the family traditions.

Following in the tradition of not shying away from hard work, Bhanu recognizes the advantages he had and the responsibility to make his efforts count as well. He says, “I certainly realize I had a fortunate start in life, but I come from a family that believes in the 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.”

C&C Alpha Group

C&C Alpha Group has been very successful under his leadership. Bhanu provided both funding and advice for startup companies and those in a growth phase. His venture investment style is to identify opportunities globally in emerging countries and then provide significant investment that is patient in pursuit of successful investment returns.

The investments made by C&C Alpha Group employ a longer-term strategy than most equity investment firms. They do not have a time limit for an exit. C&C Alpha Group has found success by taking this long-term approach in supporting trusted executive management while it takes the necessary time to execute a business plan over up to a ten-year horizon or even longer. If the business reaches its potential sooner, then it can be sold for a profit.

C&C Alpha Group has a significant position in Megalith Capital Management in New York and owns the Alpha Aviation Group with its pilot school in the Philippines and the Shanti Hospitality company in India, which has partnerships with Hyatt and Starwood Hotels.

Key investment successes

In 2004, a seed investment made in Ebookers paid off handsomely when the company listed on NASDAQ and LSE and then was acquired for $450 million by Cendant.

In 2006, Alpha G: Corp Development Private Limited sold US$65 million in real estate equity holdings to Morgan Stanley Real Estate, a division of the global conglomerate Morgan Stanley.

In 2007, the Indian airline, Air Deccan, had a market capitalization of US$500 million when it was bought by Kingfisher.

In 2014, a highly-productive California almond farm owned since 2010, was sold to JJB Farms for US$43 million.

Investment philosophy

Bhanu’s current geographical focus includes the US, India, and Southeast Asia. There is less emphasis on the UK now because of the economic turmoil there.

Methodological due diligence

Due diligence is important. Bhanu makes a careful analysis of investment opportunities in lucrative market areas. He assembled a strong investment team who uses a method of intense due diligence in decision-making along with continual nurturing of a global network of business relations.

Teamwork and tradition

Teamwork is critical. Bhanu sums up his investment philosophy as follows: “Investing in strong management teams, as well as investing for a longer period than most other venture capital firms, allows us to support and grow our investments to a greater level. I surround myself with a great team. They are invaluable when it comes to moving ideas into action.”

In 2008, he was recognized as the “Asian Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards. He credits his success as coming from his family’s traditions of respecting the value of hard work and understanding the value of money.

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