- The new management structure, according to Captain Unni, aims to create “diversity in the thought process” to walk on the path of digitisation and decarbonisation, twin challenges facing the global shipping industry.
- Captain Unni emphasised that the company must continue to build value for its customers.
- “Therefore, I look at this step as a personal commitment in my lifetime, to create future leaders for the maritime industry who with their raised consciousness will truly be a force for good,” he asserted.
Sells a portion of the company to international private investment company Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P. as reported by ET.
Employees as shareholders
In a first of its kind move in the shipping industry, Captain Rajesh Unni, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Singapore-based Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, has handed out equity to a “significant number of employees”, making them shareholders of what is now the world’s fourth biggest ship management company.
Captain Unni announced a new management structure for the 16-year-old company on Friday after global private investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P. said it bought a minority stake in Synergy Marine for an undisclosed amount.
The new management structure, according to Captain Unni, aims to create “diversity in the thought process” to walk on the path of digitisation and decarbonisation, twin challenges facing the global shipping industry.
Synergy manages a fleet of some 500 vessels including the most complex LNG ships (including floating storage units), LPG carriers, 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) plus container ships, as well as oil and chemical tankers, car carriers and bulk carriers, employing more than 18,000 seafarers, of which more than 80% are Indian nationals.
With a strong focus on crew well-being, digitalization and environmentally responsible policies, Synergy Marine are at the forefront of transforming the ship management industry.
Synergy provides ship owners with mission-critical services including full technical management (regulatory compliance, maintenance, procurement, and remote systems monitoring), crew management (sourcing and training of seafarers and services like payroll) as well as other marine services, (decarbonization services, seafarer health and wellness, newbuilding design and supervision and project management including the installation of energy-saving devices).
“In an industry where equity sharing is not the norm, the inclusion of a large number of employees as shareholders is a deliberate path-breaking stride in our journey,” he told ET Infra in an interview.
The “concept” of making employers equity holders of his company has been on Captain Unni’s mind right from the time he started his venture after a successful career at sea during which he rose to command ships.
“From the day we took our first step together, the foundations of this organization were built on immense care, relentless commitment and a collective camaraderie that stood by us in good stead through the most challenging times.
Over the years this has only strengthened, and I truly believe that the Synergy story is a story of partnerships where each one of my team performed their roles far beyond anything that may have been laid out for them,” he continued.
“For me, the philosophy of partnership has been the igniting energy for my personal leadership journey. Right from the beginning, I have been clear that we have built this organization together and there is no way I can claim any rights to sit on top of this on my own,” he remarked.
“It has to be at the right time. We had to go a distance together, weather the storms, and establish ourselves as a powerful force to be reckoned with. We stand together with pride today as the fourth largest worldwide ship management firm with more than 500 ships to manage, basking in the glow of our combined accomplishments and eager to forge ahead into uncharted territory. I firmly believe that now is the best possible time to convert employees into corporate shareholders.”
Having control over 500 ships also gave Captain Unni the “substantial mass” needed to distribute employee shares.
Unni declined to be drawn into specifics on the exit alternatives for the shares held by employees despite being named among the 100 most prominent individuals in shipping for 2020 and 2021 by Lloyd’s List, a prestigious maritime industry newspaper located in London.
“I’m not sure if the liquidity will come from an IPO or from when and when we attract more investors as we expand. There are several types. We haven’t considered how equity-holding employees would abandon the company,” he said.
Captain Unni emphasised the need for the business to keep generating value for its clients.
“I have always thought that disruptive innovation and human connections are inextricably linked throughout my life. We will have the bravery to disrupt the industry thanks to the strength of partnerships, which will also foster ownership, varied thought leadership, and innovation. The paradigm shifts in operating models will ensure that, in the new marine world, we stop just talking about decarbonization and digitisation and start actually doing something about it. We will become leaders in developing an industry that is both environmentally and commercially viable. As a result, I view this action as a lifetime commitment to develop marine sector leaders who will, through their increased consciousness, truly be a force for good,” he said.
Captain Unni squelched concerns about his position in the new organisation by stating: “I am still in control. Nothing will change in terms of how our organisation is structured or how we operate, but now that we have a diverse board, we can talk about how to continuously add value for our consumers.”
Because if we think traditionally, we will continue to work in traditional industries. “We need to actually live the talk, we need to execute, and for that, we need diversity in the thought process,” he said.
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