Subhash Shihora, the Gujarati NRI businessman who created a stir last week for buying the world's first flying car Transition tells Sunday MiDDAY that he is only the face of his company that has business dealings spread across four continents, much like an actor is the face of a film
There's little known about Subhash Shihora, the UK-based NRI businessman, who was in the news last week for buying the world's first flying car, Transition, made by Massachusetts, USA-based aviation company Terrafugia. Business news reports refer to him as the promoter of Urok Group, a UK-based financial consultancy firm, while the company website -- which, Shihora informs us, hasn't been updated since 2006 -- refers to him as the Chairman, CEO, director and founder of Urok International.
Subhash Shihora saw Transition, the world's first commercial flying car
in Oshkosh, six hours from Chicago, in 2009.
In a telephone interview with Sunday MiDDAY, the 32 year-old, currently in Ahmedabad, talked about the business deals of his multi-crore company off-handedly. "We handle projects for other companies, by raising funds for them. At the moment, we have projects for thermal power plants, coal mines, and aviation," he says. "But, the one thing we ask of the companies that come into our group is that they name themselves Urok too."
There's no information on those who have followed this mandate and Shihora is reluctant to provide details. However, he refuses to take all credit for Urok International. "Urok International was set up in 2002 by Urok Group, which has a board of 27 directors. We're a conglomeration of companies and I'm just the face of our firm, just like an actor who's the face of a movie, although there's a whole cast, director, and producer involved too."
Urok Group is a multi-crore (some reports peg it at Rs 2 lakh crore) consultancy firm with a range of business dealings spread across the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and India. The website boasts of Shihora's role in setting up the business for Nairobi-based Annum Trading Company that deals in food items, candles and cosmetics, by sourcing paraffin wax from Iran, machinery from China and man power from Mumbai.
In 2010, Urok signed an MOU with GEMAC Energy Ltd. to set up 2x660 MW coal-based power plant near Pipava Port in the Saurashtra region. The outlay for the project is pegged at Rs 8,000 crore. "We've got 750 acres from the Gujarat government, and the deal's been sealed. We're also working with SEW Infrastructure Ltd. for another thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu," says Shihora, who is currently in Ahmedabad. In fact, Shihora has good reason to remember this particular deal, for it was in the midst of raising funds for the Gujarat project in 2008 that he was put on hold for over an hour by the customer service department of an airline company that his wife and child were flying with.
"Due to some error, my wife and child were not allowed to fly despite possessing valid tickets. They were supposed to take a flight from Delhi to Bangalore. I was in Ahmedabad, raising funds for the thermal power project. When I heard of the problem, I immediately called the airline company to figure out what went wrong. They kept me on hold for an hour."
In November, Shihora says, he sued the company for Rs 21 crore. In 2009, he booked the Transition, the world's first commercial flying car made by Terrafugia, a US-based aviation company run by MIT engineers who designed the model over a two-year period, and completed testing in 2009. Over 80 aircrafts have been reserved and will be delivered in 2012.
"When I booked the car, it was around $200,000. The company recently changed the contract, since the price has now increased to $250,000. I expect to receive it by next year, but with additional duty costs, the flying car will cost a total of Rs 5 to Rs 6 crore," says Shihora. While Shihora has taken flying lessons in the US and UK in a four-seater charter plane, he will need to apply for a Private Pilot License to fly the plane in India. Terrafugia, informs Shihora, will also offer 20 hours of flying lessons -- "at an extra cost". "I plan to use it only in India," he adds.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a car
Transition, the world's first commercial flying car has been designed by MIT engineers of Terrafugia, an aviation company based in Massachusetts, USA. It is certified as a Light Sport Aircraft, so drivers will require a Sport Pilot license to fly and a valid driver's license for use on the ground. It has a range of 787 km and a maximum speed of 185 kmph. The Transition is only 6 ft 9 inches tall and 80 inches wide with wings folded. Already, 80 aircrafts have been booked