Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 5.2

In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…

Beginning on 14 January 2018, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one part each Sunday.

A Bump in the Knight. Chapter five, part two

Things settled for a couple of weeks. Kanene went back to Tanzania and we were down to two visits per week from the nurse. David was putting on weight nicely, and it would soon be time for him for him to have his hearing test and the first of the developmental assessments that Mr Fillingham-Smythe had spoken about to us. I was hoping I could be around for the start of this process. There’s no history on either side of our families of hearing, sight or developmental problems, but I wanted my son to have the best start in life he possibly could, and to give him every advantage my position could offer, provided it had no detrimental effect on anyone else.

The Indian embassy in London finally issued my business visa, so I was free to travel to India whenever everybody was ready. I had left Henk to organise the trip and meetings, a task that I was sure he’d delegate to Tanja. Sure enough, he (or she) had managed to find a period of ten days when Henk’s, Danny’s and my diaries were either empty or negotiable. She cleverly booked flights from London and Singapore that would get us all into Cochin at about the same time. Henk and I set off for the long, long journey. There was talk of Lufthansa flying non-stop from Frankfurt to Cochin, but for the time being, the choice is Qatar Airways via Doha, Etihad via Abu Dhabi or Emirates via Dubai. All were good airlines, but as Sophie and I had enjoyed good flights via Doha, we stuck to that route. Danny flew direct with Singapore Airways. My travel people had managed to contact Shafi’s employers and engaged him as our driver for the duration of our stay. He met us in the meet-and-greet area after immigration and customs, and transferred us to our hotel; we used the same one Sophie and I had stayed in, as I could personally vouch for it.
Having checked out Messrs K K Subramanium and J R Chandrasekheran, Tanja had confirmed that their credentials matched Danny’s claims for them, and we arranged to meet them the following day for lunch at our hotel – just a getting-to-know-you kind of meeting. We planned to lay out, in broad terms, what we were aiming for, and to give them an opportunity to explain how they could help us achieve our goal.

I had run the Dar-es-Salaam office for twenty years, so I had some clear idea about how a proposed office in Cochin should be set up and run. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that the vision these two men put forward was so similar to my ideas as to be almost indistinguishable. Even if they’d done their homework and fully researched our operation, they couldn’t have produced their proposal in that way because some of the plans they laid out were similar to things I had wanted to do in Dar but had been prevented from putting into action by my accident; and they weren’t recorded anywhere.

“I think we have a plan,” I said, once our preliminary discussions were over, “what do you think, Henk?”

“I agree,” Henk replied, “we’re clear on what we want this business to do, but we aren’t yet as settled on the nature of the business.”

“You’re right. Gentlemen; we are happy that the business can work, your business plan is acceptable, and we’re grateful to you for your advance work on revenue and cash-flow forecasts. Your figures are based on the business being set up as a local company, wholly owned by Knight Global Trading. But that is only one of our options. Danny, what’s your take on this?”

Danny Cho looked up from the papers he was studying. “There are three ways we can go forward with this, two will involve forming a new company. We can form Knight Trading (India) Pvt Ltd as a wholly owned subsidiary of my company, Knight Trading (Asia) Pte Ltd; we can form Knight Trading (India) LLP in partnership with a business already established and domiciled in India; or we can offer a franchise that would trade as Knight Global Trading, but be owned by a locally owned business.”

“Do you have a preference?” I asked Henk.

“From a risk-averse point of view, the franchise option is attractive. Mr Subramanium and Mr Chandrasekheran here could form a company themselves, and pay KGT a start-up fee for the right to use the Knight name and brand, then make annual royalty payments to us based on their business results. However, if you choose to follow that path, it may be advisable to convert the existing sub-regional offices; I’m thinking here of the two African divisional offices and maybe Max’s other companies; to that structure. It would need, in my view, to become the group’s standard business model. I don’t think that’s what you want. I’m going to discount the partnership idea; the only logical partner is Jont Capital (India), and despite what you said earlier, I can’t believe that you’d consider getting into bed with Della Jont. So, that only leaves Danny’s outfit as sole owner. Danny?”

“Suits me, but does it suit Mr Subramanium and Mr Chandrasekheran?”

As the senior man, Subramanium answered for the pair. “In all honesty, Mr Knight, Mr Overbock, Mr Cho; neither of us is in a position to stump up the money needed to buy a franchise. We don’t know what your fee would be, but our calculations, based on similar companies, make us think that between one and a half and two crore rupees would be needed. That includes upfront payments for premises etc.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “you said one and a half to two crore rupees. I know about lakhs, but what is a crore?”

“Forgive me, Mr Knight; one crore equates to one hundred lakhs or ten millions.”

“So, at the current exchange rate, that would be… let me see… between one seventy-five and two thirty-five thousand pounds.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I can see that as employees, even rather senior ones, that would be a lot of money to find. Thank you, gentlemen. Can we get back to you tomorrow? My colleagues and I need to discuss this in detail, and involve some other people at head-office level.”
The two men left, promising to return the following day for our decision. As for us, we carried on our discussion until the small hours of the morning, by which time we had agreed that a new company, Knight Trading (India) Pvt Ltd, should be formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Knight Trading (Asia) Pte Ltd with myself as chairman, Danny as CEO, and Henk, Subramanium and Chandrasekheran as ordinary directors.

I had Danny Cho relay our decision to Mr Subramanium for comments. He immediately replied signifying acceptance on his own behalf, and on behalf of Mr Chandrasekheran. He said he would have his lawyer, Advocate S S Nair, draw up the necessary papers and contact us for the documentation he would need from us as director nominees.

Once we’d done all that, Henk and I returned to the UK, leaving Danny behind to work with our new people to get the business set up. I had every confidence in Danny’s ability to bring this to a successful conclusion.