The jaded banker who found his feet in India
John Moore has enjoyed an eventful career around the world. Dominic Prince reports on his latest adventure
Sunday 15 November 1998
His career has been much the same as any number of high-flying bankers. There have been ups and downs. He has worked for a plethora of merchant banks. There were postings to France, the Middle East, Hong Kong and India as well as periods in London.
"Johnnie" Moore is by any reckoning a true internationalist: he is as much at home abroad as in England. In the early 1990s, he was working for Bank San Paolo of Turin in the City of London. Then the bank down- sized and Moore was shown the door.
He took the entrepreneurial route and set up a firm of City head-hunters from which he made a good deal of money in a very short period of time. The problem was he hated it. The chicanery and double dealing were not for him, so he decided to sell his partnership.
"It was not spirit-enhancing and I didn't get a buzz from it the way I got a buzz from banking, so I decided to look around once again for a job and return to the fray," he says.
As luck would have it, Barings was looking around for someone to set up and manage a new office in Bombay and offered Moore the job. He took the posting like a shot and off he went on another round-the-world jaunt. Almost as soon as touching down in India he realised all was not well at Barings.
This is not with Leeson hindsight. I remember Moore telling me before Leeson was heard of that the bank was "superbly badly managed, not just in India but everywhere".
By all accounts Moore was living a magnificent life in Bombay with a raft of servants and all the accoutrements of a banking job on foreign shores. But even in the Anglo-Indian finance sector, the revolving door principle is prevalent. Moore left after three years. He will not discuss it, but he is still perplexed about why the job came to an end.
A return to England aged 50 looked to be the only viable alternative but before he had packed his bags he received a call from Simon Murray, the chief executive of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in the Far East. Would he like to head up their India operation? A trip to Singapore, where Murray was based, and the deal was done. In 1996, Moore was appointed director and country head of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, India. Within two years disaster struck again when the bank got hit for six in the Far East downturn. The surgery was immediate. The India office closed and Moore's job disappeared.
Here he was for the third time in eight years with a payoff and no job, aged 54. There were two options; return to England or stay put and hope something might turn up in the finance sector in Bombay. Neither option was attractive.
Fed up with banking but still in love with India, the question was: what to do? Moore had learnt a lot about India - its strengths and weaknesses, its infrastructure, and how to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys - so he decided in June of this year to put his knowledge to work.
With two partners, Suprakash Mukherjee in India and Anthony Cazalet in England, he formed TransTech India as a consultancy to offer a service to small- and medium- sized European producers to enable them to get their products made in India where the costs of manufacturing are between 30 per cent and 60 per cent lower than the UK. Both Cazalet and Mukherjee come from engineering backgrounds. Cazalet has devoted a large proportion of his life studying the internal combustion engine.
India produces well-educated professionals who have developed its computer software industry into one of the country's leading export earners. It also has the highest number of trained engineers of any country in the world. However, their average wage is $1 (60p) per hour compared with $20-$35 per hour for a US or European counterpart.
Moore has identified two areas of potential. Firstly, the small engineering company which cannot afford the capital cost of new machinery, and secondly engineering companies whose labour costs will come under pressure in the economic downturn. Historically, the problem for UK companies who make the foray into India is quality control.
"If you don't know the country and its people, sourcing goods from India can be problematic," Moore says. "The cost of company executives flying out to India every other week is prohibitive."
Moore thinks this is where he comes in. He is the on-the-spot man who will understand how to deal with quality control and related problems.
"Indians are highly intelligent but like a lot of people also self-interested," he says. "I know from my banking days that some manufacturers would take an assignment from a European company, derive all the intellectual property benefits and then come out with a competing product at a knock-down price three months later - it is a nightmarish position for a small company to get into."
He believes now is the time for his new venture. "Many European manufacturers are primarily responsive to highly efficient marketing arms but the cost of manufacturing in Europe is too high. What we are saying is that the manufacturing can be done just as well, but more cheaply, in India."
But what of the charge that he is exporting jobs? "The economy is now global. If you're a UK or European manufacturer, you can put your head in the sand and go bust in two years and no one will have a job, or you can cut a proportion of your workforce, move part of your manufacturing to India, and save European jobs: it's as simple as that," he says.
This is a man who speaks from experience of the other side of the fence; a man who has assessed the risk of his banks' capital being invested in this venture or that; a man who has spent his life working in the world of international finance who has worked in various countries with very different cultures. Only this time it's his own capital on the line.
So far, TransTech India has clients from the specialist motor car manufacturing sector - for spare parts - and the telecoms industry - for a solenoid valve. It charges a flat per-day fee and undertakes to give a whole range of advice from suitability of the manufacturer through to local legal and accountancy work. They charge between pounds 300 and pounds 350 per day and a typical assignment will take them from seven to 10 days.
There are stories like John Moore's all over the City. The headlines focus on job losses: what people might pay more attention to is the entrepreneurial spirits that come into play once former City bankers find themselves on the street.
And Moore? He's going to give TransTech his all for two years. If it doesn't succeed, there's always merchant banking.
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