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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. She has been writing and commenting on the corporate sector for over eighteen years for leading Indian bjsiness international newspapers such as the UK’s Financial Times and Economic Times.

She is married to industrialist Dilip G. Piramal and they have two daughters, Aparna and Radhika. Piramal divides her time between Mumbai and London. India Penguin Books Ltd. The eight featured here are among India’s most powerful men. Between them, they control sales of roughly Rs bn through over companies and directly employ at leastpeople.


Switch on a light, sip a cup of tea, have a shave, listen to music, drive to work, see a movie, snuggle into a pillow—and you’ll find yourself using their products through the day and into the night.

They are a study in contrasts. Their businesses are distinct and varied. Some are highly educated, others are college drop-outs. Some are inheritors, others self-made. Some topped their chosen field in their thirties, others didn’t approach the starting line until their fifties. Some dominate a particular business, others control more than one industry.

What they do, what they think, how they react impacts the entire economy, not just their customers, shareholders, employees, and bank managers. So how do they think? For me, the challenge has always been to find out why a company behaves the way it does, to understand the people and the compulsions behind business events.

Inevitably, therefore, this is a book about business personalities. Management gurus love to talk about strategy and strategic decisions, but the. Usually it’s the head of a business house or the chairman of a company, but sometimes crucial decisions can be taken by unexpected people, as I found to my surprise while researching this book.

I learnt, for example, that the Williamson Magor group’s Rs 2. Inevery financial journal covered the sale, billed as the biggest takeover in Indian corporate history. Discussing the deal with the Khaitans, I found that their bid was based not so much on the advice of bean counters but on human factors. Worried that their son Deepak was spending too much time in their stable of three hundred horses and not enough in his garage of engineering companies, Shanti persuaded her husband, Brij Mohan, to make an offer for the famous battery maker.

Deepak needed to settle down, and she was convinced that a big company like Union Carbide would be just the right ticket. At one time, Bhiki Shah was a far more worried mother than Shanti.

In the late 70s,her younger son Vijay had established a tiny office and: Persuaded that the future for him lay in Israel, Vijay— who speaks fluent Hebrew— wanted to settle there but Bhiki protested. So we thought we hhd better settle down in Antwerp,” says Vijay.

Thereby he altered the course of B. I doubt if there’s a more fascinating businessman than Dhirubhai Ambani. As a petrol station attendant, he used to dream of heading a huge company, maybe a global multinational like his first and only employer, Burmah Shelll All teenagers dream but how many have the ability and doggedness to turn fantasy into reality? Ambani founded a brash, upstart company which challenged the established business houses and their way of conducting business.


He fought for and seized paper liscence, converting them into large textile mills and huge petrochemical complexes.

Through the process of building Reliance Industries into a corporate behemoth, he rewrote management theories, fought with India’s most fearsome newspaper, made friends with prime mitaisters, became the only businessman to be lampooned as often as Rajiv Gandhi. He nailed his nameplate onto an office door in From next to nothing, within two decades, sales had ballooned to Rs 9bn, making Reliance one of India’s top ten companies, but Ambani wasn’t satisfied.

Sitting at his desk one day inhe drew up a flow chart. If he built such-and-such factory, added a division here and a unit there, ten years down the road, Reliance could become a Rs 80bn company. Sceptics laughed when he announced his plans, but he proved them wrong. Insales nudged Rs 78bn. Some say Ambani is an acronym for ambition and money.

In the ’80s, Reliance grew at an astonishing 1, per cent, with sales moving up from Rs 2bn to Rs Its expansion trailed behind Bajaj Auto’s incredible growth rate of 1, per cent. Both Reliance and Bajaj Auto are lean and owner-driven corporations, yet in terms of character, style, background — every parameter that countsmthere couldn’t be two more dissimilar chairmen than Dhirubhai Ambani and Rahul Bajaj.

Ambani is a first generation entrepreneur, the Bajajs were rich long before Ambani was born. Ambani hustled in Bombay’s teeming markets selling yarn and later fabrics. Bajaj didn’t have to hustlemthere were long queues of people outside his airconditioned office patiently waiting to be allotted scooters.

Ambani Cultivated political contacts, Bajaj was born into a family of patriots. Busiess Gandhi referred to Rahul’s grandfather as his fifth son; Rahul’s father was a Congress member of Parliament.

Yet the government raided Rahul Bajaj twice, stalled his repeated applications to build new factories and expand production, and wouldn’t let him diversify. In he wanted to buy into Ashok Leyland, a truck maker, but to clinch the deal, he needed dollars. The government wouldn’t exchange his rupees and he lost the opportunity. Despite the difficult conditions he worked under, Bajaj established Bajaj Auto as one of India’s majarajas world-class organizations.

The late Aditya Birla came from a family with as rich a political legacy as Rahul Bajaj. Birla had an appetite as voracious or morem if that’s possible— for empire-building as Dhirubhai Ambani.

To feed it, Birla built 2. How could he pack in so much in such a short time? Could Birla’s trade seci’cts be taught and replicated? Yet at the end of the day, his wife of thirty yeas wondered: So what good was “. Like Ambani and Bajaj, Aditya Birla was a green field man, preferring to build his own companies rather than buy what others had erected. Once they were up and running, he would guard them jealously, fending off marauders.

Some of the attackers were his own cousins, which made the battles within the Birla clan even more exciting for those watching from the sidelines.

In terms of sheer drama, there’s little to beat maharamas and buy-outs. That’s why acquisition stories are couched in military terminology. Cloak-and-dagger secrecy is what makes Rama Prasad Goenka, India’s buy-out specialist, so interesting.

Who’s selling and at what price, who’s buying and at buxiness price? Much can go wrong in deals where political strings have to be pulled and mega bucks change hands, but Goenka usually gets what he wants without too many glitches. There were only a few ripples when he silently picked up Ceat, a tyre maker, and later CESC, a power generator and distributor.

The first company Goenka bought was the Calcutta-based Duncan Brothers. His father had managed to wrangle him a job in the prestigious managing agency firm as a covenanted assistant on the princely salary of Rs per month, but within a week RP tendered his resignation in protest against the racism rampant in the Scottish firm. The Raj gitw at its pinnacle, it was RP’s first job, and his father was furious.


RP was forced to swallow his pride and return— which made the acquisition all the sweeter when it came through in A dozen buy outs later, Goenka entered the top twenty league but he would become a cover boy maharanas in when he shot up the corporate ladder to fourth place from thirteenth.

One of Goenka’s closest friends is Briju Babu, the tea baron. Once, when he was shopping in London, a bomb hurled Khaitan twenty yards fro m the doorway of Harrods. Brij Mohan Khaitan survived also the riots of pre-Independence Calcutta when Mahatma Gandhi prayed nightly for peace in the has tis of a city described as a businezs. He survived too the Naxalite movement, staying on in Calcutta when other Marwaris abandoned the city for New Delhi and Bombay.

Khaitan is the only businessman in this book who employs a private army. It patrols his tea gardens day and night. Bodyguards and guns are a way of life for this intensely private and deeply religious man.

He doesn’t like them, but he doesn’t have a choice. After every murder, Khaitan has to keep high not only his own morale but also that of those who depend on him.

Business Maharajas (बिझीनेस महाराजे)

The life of this tea maharaja provides an insight into a shadowy world far removed from glossily printed profit and loss statements, the Calcutta Stock Exchange and high profile tea auctions. The world of diamonds is almost as shadowy and dangerous as that of the tea gardens. Security cameras unblinkingly eye visitors to the offices of Bharat and Vijay Shah, and armed guards maharaas their firearms warningly in front buziness massive vaults maharajaz millions of maarajas worth of glittering carbon.

It’s a far cry from the clever videos of gorgeous women clad in little more than a necklace and earrings. In ten years, the brothers built a Rs 35bn international empire selling an Indian product which is globally competitive.

To get to where piiramal are they had to break the hold of a group of Hasidic Jews, identifiable in diamond markets by their long flapping black overcoats, curly forelocks and wide-brimmed dark wool hats. The Shahs and other Palanpuri Jains brought the business to Surat and Bombay, where nimble diamond cutters cut and polish tiny brown stones, turning dross into gold. How did they do it? To make the Tata group globally competitive is one of the priorities Ratan Tata, the head of India’s biggest business house, has set for himself.

The group is at a watershed in its year-old history and Tata knows he has to take urgent steps to prevent the group from plummeting into terminal decline. It’s hard being a Tara. The surname doesn’t permit failure and the early years of his business career were distinguished more by losses than profits.

In the five years since he’s been in the addle, Tara has come a long way. Under his leadership, Telco and Tisco, the group’s two biggest companies which between them contribute over half the group’s sales and profits, are performing better than they have ever maharjas before.