Hedgebrunch interviews the mastermind behind Vimana Private Jets, AYU’s latest perk partner, Ameerh Naran. He talks entrepreneurial ambitions, uber-luxury travel and automotive aspirations becoming reality…
Describe your entrepreneurial journey, how have you got here?
I was schooled in business from a young age. Born in Zimbabwe, I am the fourth generation Zimbabwean of Indian decent. My Grandfather, Prag Naran, was a businessman and philanthropist recognised as a Nationalist for the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence, and a leading member of the (Zimbabwe) Asian Community. He was an astute businessman investing in land, property and iron and steel, but was also passionate about equality, community and bolstering jobs and prospects for the less fortunate.
My father built the largest independent shoe company in Southern Africa, Conte Shoes, from a small factory inherited from my grandfather. My mother, also a successful business woman, started and built successful businesses in retail, manufacturing, trading and farming. I flourished under my parent’s guidance and was involved in assisting them in their businesses in my teens. I successfully pitched for the exclusive representation rights for the Africa and Asia region for Blue Star Jets, breaking into the plane-brokerage business in 2009. I was Managing Director of Blue Star Jets for 6 years, the world’s largest private jet brokerage at the time. Spotting a niche to provide a more unique, personalised service, I ended my relationship with Blue Star Jets and became CEO of Vimana Private Jets. In addition to private aviation, I am an investor across many sectors including fintech, health, energy and agriculture and I mentor many young entrepreneurs in how to succeed.
What sets Vimana apart?
Vimana Private Jet’s exceptional service delivered with value, A-Z travel solutions for clients and our offering of state of the art VIP airliners is unparalleled. Clients include Heads of State, governments, corporations and captains of industry, with highly challenging roles and commitments. Most clients have their own complex travel requirements; they often need to travel without notice, with the best security, exceptional service, and value on offer. Vimana is uniquely positioned to meet every request and our clients trust us to provide the most comprehensive solutions on offer.
“Vimana’s commitment to its clients is unprecedented.”
In the first 3 years I worked 7 days a week,24/7 to personally oversee every client’s trip. The goal was to build client’s trust based on an offering of unparalleled service and my challenge was to meet any requests and get the most extraordinary requirements met, whether getting an airport specially opened for a client, to providing a jet in the fastest time possible to meet very last minute urgent requests. Clients recognised this unique service offering and have remained very loyal. Now, Vimana has highly trained charter operation teams who operate globally 24/7 365 days a year.
Vimana Private Jets is one of a few companies who specialise in the charter of VIP airliners which are large commercial airliners that have been reconfigured to flying apartments with en-suite staterooms, lounges and dining rooms – regularly used by our current clients. VIP airliners are the most luxurious category of aircraft in existence.
The core principles of the company are built on exceptional client service, maintaining the highest
standards of professionalism, confidentiality, and value – charters are very competitively priced – the unique aircraft offering and availability, and high-quality recruitment. Vimana strives to get the best fit to join their specialist charter teams. I invest in the intensive training of every employee and the best technology to ensure standards are kept high. Vimana also limits the number of clients it works with, so it can guarantee the Vimana level of service is maintained.
What are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about being the best I can be in any business or life endeavour. I am passionate about family, community, inspiring people to succeed. My parents emboldened me with self-belief, that dreams can become reality if you aim high and work hard. So, my life goals have been set from an early age and so far, I am confident I will attain them. I am of course passionate about business – I love working on ideas that I can hone and build into a successful reality. I particularly enjoy sharing ideas and concepts with young entrepreneurs and working on their mindset is most important to me; confidence, a can-do attitude, and the will to succeed is just as important as skill sets.
I have always loved the idea of the opulence whether it be travel, fashion, collectibles, and unique
experiences. I am passionate about things that change your day, make you smile, bring you joy, that you can aspire to. I like the deep history and incredible craftsmanship behind magnificent goods, and I want to offer exceptional products and services of substance to customers who share my ideals and my vision. I am a keen collector of objet d’art, art, and cars; the latter is a particular passion since childhood and I still race when I can, and I attend many specialist car rallies and events.
I also love to travel. I try and set aside some time each year to explore isolated islands offering the best spa services and exceptional cuisine, to customised specialist travel experiences such as Jaguar spotting in Argentina. Travel is enriching and good for the soul.
How has COVID 19 affected your business?
The spread of COVID-19 and response by the aviation industry has resulted in an unprecedented decline in global air traffic. Commercial airline and Airport revenues have disappeared leading some governments to step in with support packages, but this cannot be sustainable long-term. The impact on employment is deeply worrying. IATA ’s latest analysis shows that near 28 million jobs are at risk of disappearing with plummeting demand for air travel amid the COVID-19 crisis. The future of many commercial airlines is in the balance and many cannot survive the crisis. Many are adapting their services to switch to freight to build revenue, others may limp through depending on government support.
“The private aviation industry has experienced a peak in demand due to the near-total shutdown of commercial.”
However, the private aviation industry has experienced a peak in demand due to the near-total shutdown of commercial aviation. At the beginning of the crisis there was an upsurge in demand of circa 25% as commercial routes literally fell away and private jets largely bypassed many of the travel restrictions in place. Since the start of this epidemic Vimana has been experiencing very high demand for private charters especially from new clients and we are accommodating all, given the situation. As a socially conscience company, we are mindful of the need to meet this exceptional demand and so we are not turning away any new request as we are often now the only hope in clients seeing their loved ones for what could be the last time. This means our operations teams are flat out 24/7 and we are taking on far more clients that we would normally want to.
We are especially proud to be part of a collective solution with embassies in the repatriation of citizens worldwide, to return people stranded overseas safely home. Due to a chronic shortage of commercial cargo aircraft, Vimana Private Jets has also been meeting daily demand for medical cargo transporting medical equipment and supplies to many developing countries. Our long-standing relationships with Civil Aviation Authorities and airports have been especially useful in getting things moving quickly, and successfully delivered to countries desperate for these supplies. With our highly trained teams working across 4 continents, we can respond very quickly and efficiently to every urgent request.
We have also continued to work hard with our loyal clients to find the best solution to their travel needs in this climate. UHNWIs and corporations are supporting thousands of employees and they need to continue ‘business as usual’ which usually involves many hours in the air. We have found solutions wherever possible but ultimately their ability to travel to offices or even remote regions to oversee their assets has been impaired as containment measures continue. As restrictions ease over time, our priority will be to get our loyal clients back in the air with the same exceptional flying experience they have come to expect from Vimana Private Jets.
What’s next for you Ameerh?
I am very excited to be close to unveiling what I know will be the world’s next most iconic Hypercar, the ‘Naran’. This hypercar has been my driving ambition since I was a child. My intention is not simply to create the most beautiful and thrilling cars in existence, but to inspire future generations to pursue their wildest dreams and demonstrate that with vision and passion, anything is achievable. Now, aged 34, my success in business has enabled me to begin the next chapter in my life: the creation of the ‘Naran’- a hypercar that embodies truly exceptional characteristics of being both ‘brutal yet beautiful’.
My passion for all things automotive was ever-present during my early years growing up in Zimbabwe. At the age of 14 I wrote to Ian Callum, the Director of Design at Jaguar and Adrian van Hooydonk, who was Head of Design at BMW, asking for advice on what path I should take to realise my dream of building a car. They both replied, planting the seed that I would one day turn my dream into a reality.
“The Naran will have a top speed in excess of 230mph and a 0-60mph sprint time of just over 2 seconds.”
In keeping with my desire to be the best I can in every endeavor, the Naran will have a top speed in excess of 230mph and a 0-60mph sprint time of just over 2 seconds. My first automotive venture is set to deliver the sort of performance that marks it out as a true hypercar. Handcrafted in Germany, the Naran has been designed and engineered by a team built from the world’s leading automotive and motorsport talent.
It is now in the advanced stage of prototype development and the development team, led by former Jaguar Land Rover engineer Steve Pegg, has been instructed to deliver a potent driving experience, with a front-engine 5-litre twin-turbo V8 delivering 1000+ bhp through an all-wheel drive system housed within the coupe´s 2+2 configuration.
Just 49 vehicles will be created in the first iteration of strictly limited run of the 108 cars to be built in this series, and all will feature design elements that are tailored to the driver as well as being unique to the brand, ensuring that the owner’s exact specifications tell their own story on the road.
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