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Turning Green into Gold

Friday, 08 Apr 2016

Tags: impact investment banking agriculture impact investing

TBLI NORDIC CONFERENCE 2016 will be held in Stockholm at Nasdaq on Sept. 20-21.

We are thrilled that Arvind Narula has agreed to be a keynote speakers. Arvind is an extremely successful entrepreneur who has shown great leadership in developing sustainable agriculture, social enterprise and Impact Investing in Asia.

Here is a recent article about Arvind Narula published in Masala in Thailand.

Turning Green into Gold    


For Arvind Narula, building an organic agricultural empire is just one of a list of amazing lifetime accomplishments. By Bruce Scott Published in Masalathai 
If you peruse the aisles of certain grocery stores here in Bangkok — Tops Supermarket and Villa Market for example — then you’ve probably seen Hilltribe Organics free range eggs for sale. However, what you may not know is that this burgeoning business is just one of the many healthy food retail product lines that have sprung forth from the Bangkok- based company known as Urmatt Ltd. And the man behind this enormously successful enterprise is Arvind Narula, who manages to masterfully balance business savvy with social responsibility.
For Arvind, going green was in no way a case of simply jumping on the organic bandwagon to cash in on a popular trend. His agricultural operations have been organic for a long, long time. His business model is similarly progressive, and puts a decided emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A large part of this is ensuring that the farmers who work for him are earning a good wage and not exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals. In turn, this business model has proven so successful that Arvind is now spearheading similar agricultural projects in South America, Africa, and even right next door in Laos, at the invitation of the Laotian government. Operating in such a wide-ranging cosmopolitan milieu comes easily to Arvind, who speaks seven languages and conducts business all over world.
He was born in Bangkok, but had moved around extensively by the time he was in his early 20s. “I went to school in Thailand, Singapore, and India,” he recalls, “and then after high school I didn’t think I needed college, so I worked for a year in Japan. Then I came back to Thailand to work for my dad. He had a trading company largely dealing in chemicals, and steel and cement. While on a business trip to Germany a friend of mine took me to see a college in Heidelberg — Schiller International University— at which point it occurred to me that I wasn’t really that smart.”
He enrolled in Schiller soon after and that’s where he met his wife Karen, a German-American. A year later they decided to move together to Paris, where both of them graduated from Schiller International University’s Paris campus with bachelors degrees in business, before moving on to do pursue their Masters in socio-economics at the École pratique des hautes études, also in Paris. During this time period he and Karen embarked on some wonderful, and occasionally frightening, road trip odysseys. “In 1974 we bought a Volkswagen bus and drove from Germany to Agra, in India,” Arvind recounts. “Our route went through Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The next year we did it again, this time in a VW Beetle that we drove to Tehran. There were lots of adventures. On the first trip someone tried to buy Karen from me at the Khyber Pass, and on the second trip we were held up in Turkey by Turkish soldiers— this was right after the Cypriot war. I sat for 15 minutes with an M16 to my head.” 

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Interview with UITP's Secretary General, Alain Flausch before TBLI CONFERENCE™ EUROPE 2015

Monday, 16 November 2015

Tags: eur2015 esg sustainable urban infrastructure

Guest Blog Post written by Tiffany Vlaanderen for TBLI CONFERENCE™ EUROPE 2015, where UITP will host a session on Investing in Sustainable Transport Infrastructure. Views and opinions are that of the writer and are not the official views of TBLI CONFERENCE™.

Growing urbanization presents opportunities and challenges for global cities to tackle. One crucial area where communities feel this growth Alain Flausch 01most notably is in the daily commute. As mobility demands rise, mass transit is tasked with finding solutions to absorb transport demand. There is an urgent need for investing in public transport infrastructure, whether it be rail tracks, data collection systems, signaling systems, bus stops, ticketing machines or the development of commercial areas among others.

TBLI spoke with Alain Flausch, General Secretary of the International Association of Public Transport known as UITP, to better understand the latest trends and financing surrounding public transport projects.

What are currently the main challenges for public transport?

According to Flausch, the question is not whether we should be for or against sustainable public transport but rather how can public transport provide quality services that are efficient and comfortable enough for communities to use them. Flausch believes the difference between the individualistic and collective mentality in regard to transportation is one of the greatest challenges the industry faces.  

One of the contradictions that is of great interest to UITP is the movement of shared economies in developed countries; developing countries, particularly those with growing megacities, showcase opposing trends with private transport being at the forefront of urban mobility. Flausch believes that in regard to developing economies, the pressure of the automobile industry to promote socioeconomic status through the purchase of a car is still present and of great concern.

“The developing economies are on the path to make the same mistakes we made fifty years ago," says Flausch. “We need to be a good alternative to car transport by being efficient and comfortable, so that it makes city life more peaceful and not a struggle for life while you’re queuing in some traffic jam."

UITP works with key transit providers and key stakeholders across the globe to ensure projects are implemented smoothly such as London’s TFL, Hong Kong's MTR, Grand Paris and Tokyo Metro.

Whatever the project may be, infrastructure investment is often a challenge which varies from one region to the next. While in some regions the main difficulty is access to capital to finance projects, other regions face funding issues: how to pay back the infrastructure in the long term?

Historically most infrastructure has been publicly financed at the national level. The economic crisis and population growth have shifted the game; where now local funding sources are of growing importance for public transport financing models, as national support is no longer sufficient. In parallel, increasingly national governments are considering decentralization of public transport funding to local governments, while withholding the needed competences to raise adequate funding

“Public money is scarce. Unfortunately most of the time [ticket] fares are fixed by public authorities and kept artificially low, yet they’re not brave enough to face the funding issues. The only way we can grow is to get away from subsidies in fares towards a more diversified revenue sources including commercial revenues, contributions from indirect benefiters and land value capture,” says Flausch.

The funding of public transport projects often remains an issue for cities, hence the need to optimize costs and to find innovative funding tools. One of UITP’s goals is guiding members in how to make their projects more efficient and financially viable through the sharing of best practices, as well as the promotion of capacity building at the local level.

What role can private investment play?

Private money can mobilize public infrastructure projects in two ways according to Flausch: filling the funding gap public money cannot provide and private investments are to lead to higher efficiency gains due to a requirement of better yields.

Stability and predictability in projects with few change in governmental policies regarding mass transport systems help to create a better impression when considering private investments according to Flausch.

"We also need generate new streams of revenue so we can finance new investments and operations. We’re trying to convince old fashioned people that they should look for new creative ways for funding so we can commercialize the value we’re creating in cities,” says Flausch. That’s absolutely what we need if we want our industry to survive.”

Special Session by UITP at TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE 2015 in Zurich

At TBLI Europe 2015 in Zurich, November 20, UITP General Secretary Alain Flausch will lead the discussion on the benefits of investing in sustainable transport. Workshop D3, 20 November, 11:20 - 13:00.

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