Narayanan Shankar – Founder & CEO of Vinsight Maritime

Nearly twenty years sailing followed by an MBA were the foundation for Narayan Shankar’s move into entrepreneurship without ever losing his interest in the maritime industry

What’s your story?

A life on the move initially on the railway lines of India, stopping long enough to learn the basics in 7 schools over 12 years from some amazing teachers. Then a cadet, mate and captain on merchant ships sailing across the oceans – learning cultures and navigating uncharted waters, on medium-sized to the world’s largest ships afloat. 18 years of that followed by 18 years in management in 4 countries, with Regional and Global operational & management responsibilities. MBA with Distinction at age 40. An entrepreneur since 2010, Consultant, Coach and Confidant for & of the Maritime, Logistics & Supply Chain Industry, Founding President of International Speakers & Trainers, a mentor/coach to Polytechnics & Leaders & youth, a weekend writer, community volunteer, a social do-gooder and family man. A lifelong learner.

What excites you most about your industry?

The maritime industry has been around since the beginning of man kind. Yet unseen, unheard and as widely reported in 2020, so unloved.

The immense potential of the industry and its people to shape the nature of trade, logistics and commerce has been usurped by those who know little or less – giving the industry and its practitioners a bad name. It is time the focus is shifted to its merits and the yeoman service the industry and the seafarers continue to give to every citizen o the world irrespective of their country, colour or creed.

CC Connects

What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?

A lifelong penchant to stand apart and dispassionately observe what can be rather than what is. Never let the grass grow under your feet – create something new out of nothing – groom talent, hand over the reins and move on to the next.

What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?

The ability to connect, communicate & collate across cultures, people, processes and procedures in bringing out their best. In a corporate role, As Global Director of operations overseeing 63 countries and 220 offices – my job was to ensure the standard of service delivery was maintained whether the service was provided in Brazil, US, Nigeria, Singapore or Japan. It required a thorough understanding of what drives different people to provide a high standard of service and tweak the dialogue & instructions to make them take ownership of the idea.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

When I was appointed as Fleet Personnel Manager to oversee over 120 ships – my mentor said – “Don’t ever play God when deciding who to recruit, promote or dismiss. When faced with a dilemma, walk in their shoes for a while. If you can live with whatever you decide, then do it. Else don’t”.

Who inspires you?

A gent who was my neighbour/mentor in my early teens. Highly educated and well travelled, he led a spartan life and imbued in me some of the values I still hold dear today. His thoughts and simplicity were worth emulating and nearly 50 years on still resonates with me.

I have tried to adapt some of his lifestyle habits and it has helped me to be a better human being.

What have you learnt recently that blew you away?

That the world can be so callous in treating the hundreds of thousands of seafarers stuck onboard ships, who yet are delivering food & fuel throughout the pandemic to every country & continent. That the global institutions, governments, employers and unions have forsaken those who have served them so diligently, despite severe personal hardships. Their ardent pleas need to be heard. Globally. Now.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

A private equity firm offered to invest in the business in the early years. I declined. They acquired another company who went on to be very successful under the PE’s patronage. Many entrepreneurs would have done no different, yet succeeded. But, I realise that a stronger financial backing would have helped bring more ideas to fruition than I was able to do on my own.

How do you unwind?

Since 2016, Titled Sunday Musings and under the byline “Beer & Biryani”, I write a light hearted weekend column for friends and family. It started as a part memoir, part fiction for my cohort on the Training Ship from the ’70’s. After 4 years it has taken on a life of its own and is eagerly awaited by a growing group of readers. One e-Book with collections from 2016 & 17 has been published. Two more are under production. I am a Sudoku fan. I also organize & Emcee yearly reunions for our aging cohort.

What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?

To occasionally step back and reset the priorities, without losing focus on the long term goals. That set backs are a passing phase and to fail is not a shame but not to rise up again is.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (2001) by David Allen

Shameless plug for your business:

Vinsight truly offers what it sets out as its motto. Provide a deep Visual Insight into what is possible, tap the unseen potential and help create opportunities that await companies, individuals and young people who are willing and able to take the advice and build on it, with the right determination and positive attitude.

How can people connect with you?

+65 9170 0001

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About The EnterpriseZone Writing Team

Shining A Light on the Small Business World and highlighting Entrepreneurial Investing Opportunities.

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