“Much of my life has been about Nepal,” said Nigel A Collett, Managing Director of Gurkha International (Hong Kong). “I served in the British Army for 20 years, 10 of which were in Nepal. I just fell in love with the country and its people.”
After retiring from the army in 1994 as Lieutenant Colonel, he channeled his enthusiasm for Nepal by establishing what he described as a “strange company.”
“I wanted to try to do something for the ex-Gurkha soldiers, who had no way of finding a job after going home,” he said.
Collett, together with some friends, tried to find employment for ex-soldiers to serve as crewmembers onboard ships. “No one had ever done this before, and almost all Nepalese have never even been on a ship, because Nepal is a land-locked, mountainous country. Yet the idea worked surprisingly well. Today we manage about 920 crewmembers working on ships around the world, most of whom are Nepalese.”
In Hong Kong, Collett and business partners continued their mission of finding work for hardworking Nepalese. Gurkhas serving on ships worked very well, so he decided to develop a security arm of the business by employing members of the Gurkha and Nepalese community in Hong Kong.
“We employ mostly Nepalese security personnel, but not entirely, because there is such a diverse pool of talent,” he said.
Since it was established 20 years ago, GI (HK)’s main business in Hong Kong is providing security guards, bodyguards and employment agent services, in addition to providing crews to ship owners.
Professional and specialized services
GI (HK) specialized in training security guards for clubs, private residences, managed residential properties, commercial offices and retail premises. The company is also not restricted to just burly ex-Gurkhas. Since 2011, the company has been employing female Nepalese guards, who now make up about 10% of the company’s employees.
Bodyguard services provided by GI (HK) have contributed a lot to its success, as all bodyguards undergo extensive professional training and take care of some very important clients.
“All bodyguards are trained by professional Executive Protection Officers and retired members of the Hong Kong Police VIP Protection Unit who also educate our employees on Hong Kong laws and practices,” he said.
Anyone whose father was a Gurkha or Nepalese and holds a HKID card can apply for a job with GI (HK). Collett said his staff will then try and find them employment based on their skills and experience, which in addition to security might be construction workers. Collett said he does not charge employees for finding them employment, but his clients. He explained that in Nepal, even getting a job can involve corruption, and people need to “buy” a job, which can sometimes cost as much as US$5,000 for a well-paying job. However, it can take a year or more for these employees to repay their loan for the job.
“Our philosophy is to look after our people, so we make sure we find clients who will treat them properly,” he added.
Collett said the security industry in Hong Kong is very competitive, with over 1,000 registered companies in Hong Kong – even the Government provides such services – yet there is a limited number of clients in Hong Kong due to its size. “So you have to be good in what you are doing; if you are not good enough, you will not last very long,” he said.
Another challenge is manpower shortages. As a number of major infrastructure projects are underway or being planned, the construction industry hires a substantial number of his people, and because the construction sector pay is far higher than the security industry, he said it is increasingly difficult to find people willing to work in the security industry.
“One of my concerns is that with Hong Kong’s economy still growing but the workforce declining, we will not be able to find enough people to work. Moreover, if the Government legislates standard working hours, it would be catastrophic for us and many businesses,” he said.
Collett said he is planning to expand recruiting for his offshore business, and recently has been employing guards from India. In Hong Kong, however, due to labour shortages and restrictions on importing workers, Collett said it is now difficult to grow his domestic businesses.
Company: Gurkha International (Hong Kong) Ltd
HKGCC Membership No.: HKG0418
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