Vikram Gupta: Chief Financial Officer, Essar Shipping Limited

Chief Financial Officer, Essar Shipping Limited

Vikram Gupta has been associated with Essar Shipping Limited in various capacities for his entire career so far, beginning as a management trainee after an MBA from Mumbai University. He is currently chief financial officer (CFO) of Essar Shipping, which is the second largest private shipping company in the country, with a fleet of 14 vessels and a total deadweight tonnage of 1.68 million tonnes. Its clientele comprises global and domestic oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Indian Oil Corporation Limited; commodity traders; steel mill operators; and power generation companies.

As CFO, Essar Shipping, Gupta’s most challenging task has been to realign the company’s cash flows to the current market earnings and the life cycle of assets. He says, “The shipping industry has been going through a lull for a long period of time, making it extremely challenging for a CFO to ensure both sustainable operations and growth.” Arranging the required capital to facilitate the company’s growth in a depressed market has been a demanding task for him. However, Gupta believes that the current low asset values in the market present opportunities to shipowners for augmenting and renewing their fleet, with the expectations of higher returns in the future.

Noting the challenges faced by the shipping industry, he says, “My job becomes even more challenging while fulfilling the requirements of all the company stakeholders, be it lenders, vendors or shareholders.” According to Gupta, the role of a CFO has evolved over the past few years and has become more inclusive. The finance department of a company can no longer work in a silo. Today, his job requires him to work as a partner with the chief executive officer of Essar Shipping, thereby giving him a say in critical decision making, governance and other company matters. He believes that a CFO needs to have complete knowledge and understanding of the entire business cycle in order to make the right decisions. However, Gupta strongly believes that challenging times also bring a lot of opportunities. Having the right vision to identify these opportunities is key for building successful and sustainable business models.

Gupta’s wife is a director at Sitara Shipping Limited, a non-vessel owning container company. She also serves in the capacity of the president and board member of the Women International Shipping & Trading Association, an international forum promoting women in the shipping industry. The couple has a nine-year-old son.