From hotels to ships and next - aircraft

With Asia's growth, international companies are looking to the region to establish bases and for talented people to lead them. The Economic Development Board has in place talent-grooming programmes so that Singaporeans can meet the demand for business leaders. In the final of a seven-part series, Arti Mulchand talks to three people involved in such programmes.

WHEN Mr Rishi Sood starts talking ships and what propels them, his excitement is clear.

"From engines to automation and control systems, Rolls-Royce powers the vessels that keep the industry - and goods and services - moving.

"Everything we do is tied closely to the global economy, and that makes it very exciting," says the 29-year-old, a manager in Rolls-Royce's business development and strategy team.

For the past 11 months, Mr Sood, who was born in India but became a Singaporean in his teens, has worked with Roll-Royce's marine division.

He covers strategy at the country, product and business levels, as well as partnership, joint venture, and merger and acquisition work.

When he was growing up, his father ran hotels in various parts of the world, and so they were the only "homes" he knew until the family settled down in Singapore.

It drew him to the sector and, at 22, he did his degree in hotel management at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

He then joined the Singapore office of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to do sales and marketing, and business development across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The job kept him on the road, visiting existing developments and assessing future ones.

In 2009, not long after joining IHG, he began an 18-month journey towards being recognised as a chartered financial analyst.

In 2013, the itch struck again, and he did a master's in business administration at the graduate business school, Insead.

There, he learnt about the Economic Development Board's Global Asia Management Programme, designed to groom the next generation of Singaporean leaders for international companies.

It was a chance to do something dramatically different, and with a company offering a wide scope of possibilities, he says.

"Rolls-Royce's global business functions touch shipbuilding, as well as oil and gas. I was keen on being exposed to all its business units," he says.

Today, his business skills are applied to the development of manufacturing facilities and products, and regional strategies.

It is quite different from hotels, he says, even if it draws on the same basic understanding of how to do business.

Far from the "old-fashioned" idea many have of the maritime industry, it is fast-moving with rapid technological advancements that include drone ships and advanced robotics, he says.

He already has his eye on the next change: He wants to work in Rolls-Royce's aerospace business following this, and ultimately play a leading role in the company's growth in Singapore.

"This country has given me a lot, so it's a chance for me to give something back."

This article was first published on Nov 24, 2014.

Discover more Future-Ready Careers!