Bhanu Choudhrie has built his career through his work as a strategic investor, philanthropist and as the founder of C&C Alpha Group. Mr. Choudhrie oversees investments in industries such as real estate, healthcare, aviation, banking, utilities, and hospitality. As the founder of C&C Alpha Group, Choudhrie’s investment strategies help to both incubate new companies and to drive mature businesses to reach their objectives. His experience in both areas has made him a go-to voice in the world of investments across a wide range of industries, as has his unique background and educational history that saw him exploring a diverse spectrum of fields along his path through academia and his career.
As a student, Bhanu Choudhrie attended Boston University where he studied International Business & Marketing. It was here he honed his passion and expertise in delivering powerful marketing messages and advanced strategies for large corporations and small businesses alike. He also developed a passion for business that continues to this day. After graduating from Boston University, Mr. Choudhrie was accepted on to the Owner Management Program at Harvard Business School, where he learned the advanced methods of high-level management and how they can impact business success.
In 2001 Bhanu Choudhrie founded C&C Alpha Group. Through his leadership, the group has developed a large and profitable investment portfolio, with a reputation for successful investments in emerging markets such as India and the Philippines around the world. Beyond his work with C&C Alpha Group and other ventures, Choudhrie is an active entrepreneur with several positions on executive boards. In the United States, he presently serves a Member of the Board of Directors as well as sitting on the Executive and Risk Committees for Customers Bancorp, an investment and financial corporation. Prior to its acquisition by Ameris in May 2018, Mr. Choudhrie was also a member of the Board of Directors for Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation. Bhanu Choudhrie has also served on a number of committees for the firm during his tenure including the Executive, Capital, Compensation, Audit and Governance & Nominating Committees. These various pursuits have given him a more complete, high-level view of the world of investing and how diverse industries can all have a significant impact on the market and its movements over time.
Over the course of his career, Bhanu Choudhrie has received a number of awards for his contributions to society both as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. In 2008, the United Kingdom’s Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards recognized Mr. Choudhrie as their Entrepreneur of the Year, a major achievement that brings together thousands of potential candidates from a pool of thousands. Bhanu Choudhrie has also taken an extremely active role in many philanthropic organizations; in particular, he has been often recognized for his work with Path to Success which seeks to help those who can’t take education for granted and to support individuals with long term health concerns and limited financial resources. These philanthropic works have become an additional passion beyond Choudhrie’s business interests, as he challenges his experience and expertise into helping those who are less fortunate achieve goals, they might never have otherwise been able to access in their current conditions.
We spoke to Choudhrie and asked him key questions about his business, habits, his idea making process, and his opinions on some of the most dramatic trends shaping the world of investment and our planet as a whole.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Our family started investing in the real estate business in India over 30 years ago, my father and uncle started a TV import-export business in the 70s and one of my great grandfathers was the chairman of the Punjab National Bank in India. For me, setting up a business that encompassed all those elements and established some new areas of interest and expertise was a natural progression for the next generation of our family. I wanted to move our story forward, both preserving where we came from and the achievements my family had made while also moving upward into new and exciting areas. To me, that was the best possible way to honor their legacy while also creating something for myself that would last on its own merit. Every day, I hope that I’ve achieved that goal when I think about them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually wake at around 6.30 am. I’ve always believed that the best days begin with an early start, as this psychologically puts you in a productive mindset and also helps you get some things done before the craziness of the business day begins. I start looking through emails then and take time to find out what’s happening in the news. I typically watch channels such as CNN and Bloomberg as well as their Indian equivalents, as understanding global trends financially and on a wider business level are particularly important in the development of our business strategy. I also personally value the importance of staying informed and current on global issues of all kinds.
Depending on whether I’m travelling or not or have external breakfast meetings I will head to the office and start work there at around 10 am. My general day will involve meetings and calls covering the day-to-day running of our various businesses and any issues that may entail, as well as working on our strategic development and longer-term ideas and ventures. Depending on the day, it may be a mix of high-level strategizing and discussions about the future blended with tackling the small tasks that make up a business on a regular basis.
We always take time to break for lunch, though discussions may involve business, and we try to finish and leave the office at 6 pm. It’s important to try to leave on time regularly, otherwise you do not give yourself enough space to think creatively. I’m also a big believer in work-life balance, for myself and for my employees and colleagues. I think it’s important that people feel they can have a life outside of their work, and that it’s supported by their employers, supervisors, and team members. I also ensure I do some form of exercise, such as going to the gym, swimming or boxing every day after work regardless of where I am in the world. it’s important to have that respite and often that’s when many of my ideas come to the forefront. Being physically active has been proven to boost creativity, productivity, and overall feelings of well-being. I try to never miss an opportunity to exercise when I can.
Following that, I may do some other work calls or meet for dinner depending on which time zone I am in. Once I am finished with that, I take some time to relax and watch a movie or read a book before heading to bed at around midnight. At this point, I can feel that I’ve had a productive and successful day by focusing on my business ventures, personal goals, and health. To me, that’s the key to a good day on any day of the week. It’s important to be productive, but it’s also important to ‘sharpen the saw’ and tend to your own needs, otherwise you end up getting burned out and less creative.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I surround myself with a great team. They are invaluable when it comes to moving ideas into action. There is a myth that still persists in entrepreneurship of the do-it-alone leader who makes everything happen on their own. But I’ve found that’s never really the case. Surrounding yourself with a great team of people with specialized skills and unique perspectives is the only way to guarantee that great ideas will become living, breathing success stories. Otherwise, they’re just ideas and nothing more.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The increasing interest in the health and wellbeing sector and the changing approach towards maximising not only your own health and wellbeing but that of others around you. It’s exciting from a business perspective but I am also interested to see how the next generation is changing the way we think about improving our own lives but also that of those in our communities or further afield who may not have had access to the same opportunities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A regular exercise regime which incorporates activities you enjoy, for me that’s going to the gym or boxing. As I mentioned before it really is important to give yourself time away from the office, calls and meetings to give your mind a rest and get some perspective. It also helps with maintaining energy levels which can be difficult when you’re jet-lagged! It seems counter-intuitive but exercising when you’re feeling tired or sluggish can actually boost your physical and mental energy. By increasing blood flow throughout the body, it can sometimes be as effective as a nap for boosting your energy levels and helping you feel more motivated for the rest of the day. That’s why I never skip a workout whenever I can spare even a few minutes to make it happen, no matter where I am in the world or how busy my schedule might be at a given time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Worry less about what you don’t yet know. Like many people, I spent a lot of time wondering and fretting about what the future held. It’s important to focus on your goals and future plans, but worrying about things outside of your control is simply a waste of your energy and effort. It makes you feel stressed and uneasy, and isn’t conducive to success. Face what you can, plan for what you know is coming, and forget about the rest. You can’t control the future, but you can shape your own path.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Take your time when it comes to making decisions about investments. Don’t get excited and invest on the spot! The myth of “going by the gut” has been around for decades, and I do believe there is value in trusting your intuition when it’s backed by experience. But trusting your intuition doesn’t mean reacting immediately on the spot when you get a feeling! It means listening to your intuition, then considering all of the options and making informed, well-thought-out decisions for yourself and your future.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read and continue to educate yourself. Keep up to date on what’s happening globally, as it helps you see and create opportunities as they arise. And that doesn’t mean only educating yourself on your specific area of expertise—it means expanding your horizons to develop a more complete picture of the world. People underestimate how much various fields and disciplines can inform each other. Understanding one area can give you insights into another that you might never expect or anticipate. That’s why I always advocate for people to make themselves as well-rounded as they possibly can.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Investing in strong management teams as well as investing for a longer period than most other venture capital firms, which allows us to support and grow our investments to a greater level. There is an ongoing trend in short-term investing led by less-experienced management teams. I believe that if you want to start a successful investment business, focusing on extremely talented management and long-term investing strategies will get you a long way, further than you think.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure is often perceived as a negative thing. The nature of our business means that on average two out of every five ventures will succeed, so we ‘fail’ more often than not in those terms.
However, the lessons gained from failing help fuel our greatest successes, we spot issues and tackle them more quickly, we know more readily when we invest whether it’s likely to work or the changes needed to turn a venture around and equally when it’s best to pull the plug. We are more successful as a result of knowing what not to do. With that in mind, it’s important to develop a completely different mindset about failure. It’s not a ‘necessary evil,’ it’s a vital and lesson-teaching opportunity. It’s also proof that you’re growing and developing, as no failure ever came when someone stuck to only what they already knew without ever expanding their horizons.
As to how to overcome failure, do not view it as the be all and end all. It does not define you. Instead, take what you have learned and apply it somewhere new. Shorten the time between a failure and the moment when you decide to get back up and try again. Don’t spend time wallowing in disappointment or shame at your failures—use them as rocket fuel for your next success.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An UBER type business for Tesla charging. From personal experience, it would be unbelievably helpful to be able to order a charge station to your location when you have run out of juice whilst sat in traffic! I think whoever can manage to nail a business plan for a service like this will become very, very successful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a gadget that allows me to connect all my devices to the net anywhere in the world including whilst I am in the air. Given the amount of travel I do, being able to stay connected and on top everything wherever I am is extremely helpful. I would highly recommend a device like that to anyone who needs to stay connected as often as possible.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use WhatsApp a lot with my teams, it’s very easy and convenient to keep each other up to date on projects and is a budget-friendly way of doing so when you’re travelling. Communication is so important for a business and the teams that make it up, so the less barriers you can have between teammates and communication, the better.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, it’s a classic and it is so for a reason, the lessons are applicable across many spheres— including business.