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Rich among the poor

Rich among the poor
Highlights

Rich among the poor.One hundred forty-five billionaires with a collective net worth of $175 billion in a country of 1.27 billion seems exciting till you confront the fact that the 40 per cent of the population lives below poverty line, without decent home, education and healthcare.

Most of the rich have diversified into multiple businesses and not confined to a single area. They have been smart in looking for opportunities in new economy

One hundred forty-five billionaires with a collective net worth of $175 billion in a country of 1.27 billion seems exciting till you confront the fact that the 40 per cent of the population lives below poverty line, without decent home, education and healthcare.It exemplifies India’s many contradictions.

Pointing to the rich-poor gap and that it has widened since economic reforms were launched in the 1990s may be passé, even uncomfortable, but that is what we are as a nation.The latest survey of billionaires asks you to celebrate the big names that we can flaunt to the world as India. But it wants you to ignore the other side of the coin that is Bharat. That the billionaires are creating wealth is not in dispute, even that they are distributing wealth as they generate it. But any claim that they are reducing poverty remains arguable. There are many things worth celebrating.

Many, including Dilip Shanghvi, the topper, are self-made and first generation. The list also has many ‘garbha shrimant’, who inherited wealth. Significantly, nearly all have diversified into multiple businesses and not confined to a single area. They have all been smart in diversification of their wealth and made their companies flourish. They have not shied away from tapping new areas, beyond the fast-growing ones like mobile phones and auto manufacturing.Not content with a large domestic market, they have gone into exports of goods and services.

This marks them as different from the rest of the flock. Pluralist India, which has diversity and success, has not been confined to any faith, class or region. Success stories include families who left remote Rajasthan with hardly any savings. Ironically, none in the billionaires’ list calls Rajasthan his or her home.Tatas, with a history of over a century, are Zoroastrians. So is Pallonji Mistry. Azim Premji of Wipro and Feroz Allana of IFFCO are Muslims.

Britain-based David and Simon Reuben are Baghdadi Jews. Shiv Nadar, as the name indicates, is not an upper caste Tamil. Forty-four of them are settled abroad or are working from overseas making best of the both the countries. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said his morning began with Tetley tea, owned by Tata, who also make cars like Jaguar and Land Rover. Tata has for company Lord Swraj Paul. The USA has seven Indian billionaires, Britain 13 and Canada three. Lakshmi Mittal is the world’s largest steel producer.

India’s Partition, despite all its horrors, also spurred success stories like Hindujas and Rahejas. While the UAE has 13, Uganda and Kenya have two Indian billionaires and Tanzania and South Africa one each. Mumbai, the former Bombay, has undoubtedly the highest share of 41 that includes Gujarati enterprise at its best, including the Ambani brothers. Ahmedabad has six.

Bengaluru and Delhi have 15 each. Chennai and Pune can boast of five billionaires each. Shorn of its old clout, with many growing out of it, Kolkata retains four billionaires. Hyderabad has three. And yes, in the predominantly male bastion, the matriarchs leading their families are Savitri Jindal and Indu Jain.

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