Straits Times: Sun, Apr 22
Home for the past two years for Mr G. S. Sareen, 45, and his family has been a sprawling landed property in Binjai Park.
The president and chief executive of tyre maker Omni United, which exports to the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, Africa and the Middle East, was scouting for a house around early 2010.
When his fengshui master from India told him the good class bungalow was perfect for him, he sealed the deal in no time, buying it from Amtel group boss Sudhir Gupta.
The price was $28 million.
'I believe in fengshui. The important thing is to believe in something,' says Mr Sareen.
'It's better to believe in something crazy than nothing. It's important to have a faith.'
A former Indian army officer, Mr Sareen came to Singapore to start his own business in 1994. He ran and sold two businesses before starting Omni United in 2003.
In its April issue, Fortune magazine named him one of Asia's 25 Hottest People in Business. He was one of two entrepreneurs from Singapore on the list, the other being Ms Olivia Lum of Hyflux.
Still, things were not always this rosy for Mr Sareen. Just around a decade ago, he went through a bad financial patch and was living without a car or domestic help.
'So, we had to literally start from scratch,' he said.
Now a Singapore citizen, he has been married to Ms Rewa Sareen, 44, for 22 years. They have two boys - Hanut, 18, and Sumer, 13.
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
I'm more of a spender, mostly on entertainment, travel and vacations and also art... but what I enjoy most is being able to share those experiences with friends and family.
I would say that if you have $100, you should give away $10, save $20, and spend $70. If you don't spend, you won't have the urge to earn more to sustain your lifestyle.
For instance, once you have flown first-class, you will have to work really hard to make sure you can continue to fly first-class. But, the only way to be happy is to keep your expectations under control.
Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
I don't have any debts. I charge an average of $30,000 a month to my credit cards, for both business and pleasure expenses.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself and your family?
I'm a cautious investor and always believe in taking calculated risks and a diversified approach.
I invest in equities, bonds, mutual funds and, most importantly, in my business, which is still on a rapid growth path and giving me enough returns.
My wife and I fully own Omni. It is my priority when it comes to capital investment for expansion plans and so on. I have private bankers who manage my investment portfolios. I don't like debts so I don't like to leverage too much.
Everything in my life is fully insured - my business, my property, life and health.
I am looking at buying a US property because prices are low now. It may be a vineyard in Napa Valley. I want to go there with my family and enjoy it.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
My father was a very honest civil servant. He was very frugal and would tell me to 'spend only what you can afford to'.
I was born in a village in Madhya Pradesh and I had two siblings.
My sister is now living in Dubai. My brother died in a road accident at the age of 27 in 1989, two months after he got married.
In 1971, when my mum was 31 and my dad was 36, she met with an accident in South Africa and became totally paralysed.
My mum, who now lives with me, has been like that since then but my father, who died in 2005, took great care of her and never remarried.
He would take her to the movies, to the circus, to attend weddings and to visit me in Singapore.
My father told me there are two things I can give my kids and that is education and to set a good example.
When I was 12 and told my dad I wanted to go to boarding school, he said it was a great idea but where is the money, so go and figure it out. He hinted to me to go to my grandmother and so I did.
She paid half the money and my dad paid half. Many years later, I learnt that my father had given the money to my grandmother to give to me. It was his way of making me chart my life.
I was not the brightest kid around but then, bright kids have their limitations because they are afraid of failure.
For me, I want to push destiny. The only limitation is the human being himself. Human beings can achieve amazing feats.
Q: What property do you own?
A 35,500 sq ft good class bungalow in Bukit Timah that I bought in January 2010 for $28 million. I believe its value has gone up substantially.
We moved in in May that year after quite a lot of renovations. Initially, it was a little bit overwhelming but now it's okay. It's great as we always have guests in the house.
Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?
A commissioned painting of my wife by American painter Richard Johnson. I would rather not reveal the price but I have no regrets. It is one of the most beautiful paintings in my collection.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I have no plans to retire yet. I like the Confucius quote: 'If you enjoy what you do, you'll never work another day in your life.'
Q: Home is now...
The house in Binjai Park. We used to live in a 6,000 sq ft penthouse at Pebble Bay, which I bought in 2005 and sold in 2010 for a profit of $2.8 million.
Q: I am chauffeured in...
A black Jaguar XJC.
WORST AND BEST BETS
Q: What's your worst investment to date?
I invested 200,000 Indian rupees in an Indian listed stock back in 1999 as it was going up very quickly. But it crashed shortly after that as it was not a fundamentally strong company.
I had only about 500,000 rupees then and yet I chose to put about 40 per cent of it into something that I had no clue about.
After that lesson and up till today, I don't invest in complex products or things that I don't understand.
Q: And your best?
I bought a significant chunk of Citibank shares at below $1.40 a share in 2010 and sold it at close to $5 a share about six months later.
Apart from this, Omni United has to be my best investment. I invested US$3 million in it when I first started the business in 2003. It had a turnover of US$7 million then. Today, it has a US$180 million (S$226 million) turnover.
Source: The Straits Times