Monday, August 6, 2012

‘Burra’ Sahibs in the ‘Gora’ Economy

By Neeraj Mahajan

oming from a rich marwari business family from Churu district of Rajasthan Lakshmi Mittal the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaking company is  richest man in India, Asia and the United Kingdom Britain. With a personal net wealth of US$ 20.7 billion second highest in Europe, he is safely the 6th richest individual in the world. Lakhsmi Mittal has steel plants in the US, Kazakhstan, Germany, Mexico, Trinidad and Indonesia. India's socialist policies reserved the steel industry for the public sector. So Lakhsmi Mittal went to Indonesia to open his first steel plant and ended up conquering the world.

In no way is less than him and men like multibillion dollar man Manoj Bhargava ($ 1.3 billion) who once drove cab taxis and sold plastic, Florida based Bharat Desai, 58, with a net worth of $1.35 billion, Vinod Khosla, 56, a father of four children from California with a net worth of $ 1.3 billion—who are all among the richest Indians in USA. There is something special about the simple kurta-pajama clad 58-year-old Princeton University dropout, Manoj Bhargava probably the wealthiest yet most down-to-earth Indians in the US. He created quite a ripple when he announced his decision to donate 90% of his income to charities in India. Born in Lucknow in 1953, he was just 14 when the family moved to USA. His father had big dreams for him but still could not prevent young Manoj from opting out because he didn’t like the atmosphere at Princeton. Like most rebellious youngsters in that age, draws inspiration from Mark Twain when he says, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education."So after leaving Princeton – he decided to do things his 'own way' and founded '5-Hour Energy'-an energy drink, which controls 90% of the US energy-shot market. Like the gentlemen mentioned above, there are as many as 25 million people of Indian origin, living in USA, Canada, Britain, Africa, Australia, Caribbean or Europe. Most of them are prosperous and flourishing with a collective economic potential of about $250 billion, almost one third of India’s total GDP. They are the typical ‘Burra’ Sahibs in the ‘Gora’ Economy. Let’s take a look:

·         One-third of the engineers in America’s Silicon Valley are of Indian descent and 7% of its hi-tech firms are led by Indian CEOs-- according to a study conducted by the University of California.

·         A record number -- at least 12, Indians --the fastest growing ethnic community in the US, are in the fray for the November 2012 polls for a place in the US House of Representative.

·         The Indian CEO High Tech Council has 200 members In Washington DC--all high tech-chiefs. Many Indians have moved on to become successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists in the United States. In fact, 40% of all information technology companies in the Silicon Valley have been started by Indian entrepreneurs.

·         Indians own 50% of all economy lodges, and 35% of all hotels in the US that have a combined market value of almost $40 billion.

·         Two Indians -- Ayush Chauhan co-founder and managing director, Quicksand and Ruchi Yadav, senior programme officer of The Hunger Project are among the 16 people selected as the prestigious 2012 World Fellows by the Yale University. This takes the number of Indians to 11 – the maximum number of people from any country, alongside Britain-- to be called World fellows in the last one decade of the program in which more than 79 countries participate.

·         Indian American journalist Manu Raju 32 was named winner of the Merriman Smith Award 2012 for Excellence in Presidential Coverage under pressure. As a mark of honor he was invited to a special dinner with President Barack Obama- one of the most powerful men on planet earth.

·        American aviation industry has two heavy-weight Indians at the top. Rakesh Gangwal is president of US Airways while Rono Dutta, 47 is President of United Airlines Arlington Heights, the largest employee-controlled airline in the world. He is one of the most outstanding stories of hard work and struggle to the top. When he came to America he had just $200, and had to work nights to support himself in college.

·         Nagpur born electrical engineer Vikram Pundit is CEO of Citigroup, which operates Citibank one of the largest banks in the world. His total compensation was $128,751, with a base salary of $125,001 and other compensation of $3,750 in 2009—when he decided it give it all up and work at a salary of just $1 per year and no bonus till the bank returned to profitability. For good two years he worked for just $1 a year, till finally he was back to being one of the highest paid CEOs. In April 2012, shareholder voted against increasing his pay to $15 million. Vikram Pandit was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2008.

·         It was Leicestershire Gujarati baker Kishore Patel’s proverbial Gujarati business acumen that turned a talent into opportunity in the form of Fiona Cairns baking company which was hand-picked to bake the historic multi-tiered cake for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Buckingham Palace. The first among the 650 pieces of the royal wedding cake is reportedly being auctioned for £1,450.

·         Rana Talwar, 40, the brother of actor Amar Talwar and son-in-law of Kushal Pal Singh of DLF -- is Group CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, one of the biggest multinational banks in Britain. Had he been in India, he would perhaps been a manager in the Lord Krishna Bank, taking orders from babus to give loans to politically favored clients.

·    Rajat Gupta as the head of Mckinsey, was the first Indian-born CEO of a global corporation and largest management consultancy firm in the world. Later he was advising the biggest multinationals like Goldman Sachs, Procter and Gamble, American Airlines, Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation, The Global Fund and the International Chamber of Commerce. This was till he arrested by the FBI for securities fraud and conspiracy as part of an ongoing and wide-ranging insider trading case.

·         Onetime rice trader from Hissar turned media baron-packaging-theme park-lottery and cinema multiplex king is the man with the golden touch who not only founded India's first private TV channel Zee TV but is looking to beat Rupert Murdoch. All this probably would not have happened if he has confined himself to India where Doordarshan had a monopoly over television. But technology came to his aid and satellites made it possible for him to target India from Hong Kong. Once he escaped Indian rules and soil, he soared.

·         Likewise Hubli, Karnataka born son of a labor commissioner 48-year old Gururaj Deshpande is the second richest Indian billionaire and co-founder of Chelmsford-based Sycamore Networks one of the hottest IT scrips on the Nasdaq, inspite of meltdown in the US economy. He is married to Jayashree the sister of Infosys founder Narayan Murthy’s wife Sudha and astrophysicist Shrinivas Kulkarni. He was appointed Co-Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship by President Barack Obama.

·         Arun Netravali has become president of Bell Labs, one of the biggest research and development centres in the world with 30,000 inventions and several Nobel Prizes to its credit. Had he been in India, he would probably be struggling in the middle cadre of Indian Telephone Industries.  

·    Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi has is CEO Of PepsiCo Inc., a Fortune 500 company for the last six years.

·         Romesh Wadhwani, Manu Agarwal, Sabeer Bhatia and Krishnan Ganesh are just a few successful ones. Sabeer Bhatia invented Hotmail and sold it to Microsoft for $ 400 million. Victor Menezes is number two in Citibank. Shailesh Mehta is CEO of Providian, a top US financial services company. Also at or near the top are Jamshed Wadia of Arthur Andersen and Aman Mehta of Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp.

·         Atleast 100 Indian teachers from small towns are earning good money and respect in Singapore schools where the demand for Indian teachers is increasing.  

·         Apart from this People of Indian origin have been elected to power in Fiji, Guyana and Trinidad. South Africa has several Indians as ministers in the government. S.R. Nathan has been President of Singapore, Late Dr. Chheddi Jagan was President of Guyana, Basdeo Panday was President of Trinidad. Mahendra Chaudhry was the 4th Prime Minister of Fiji. Apart from this Kamla Persad Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago and Sir Anerood Jugnauth of Mauritius, have been Prime Ministers and President of their respective countries. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose forefather came here from India as indentured labourer, has been elected as the first woman prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago after the political alliance led by her ended the rule of the party which had been in power for 43 years.

Many of them left India with a meager amount of dollars or pounds in their pocket, with their dedication and hard work they became successful in the West and in particular the USA, Canada, U.K. and other European countries. Today the colors of their passports are different. They have gone far and wide in some twenty-two countries where they have concentrations of at least a hundred thousand ethnic Indians but “Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani”.

The moot issue really is—why is it that Indians who ventured out to different lands in search of new prospects.... have excelled spectacularly in their chosen professions and fields? They have excelled in fields like IT, medicine, venture capital, engineering and biotechnology to name a few. Of course behind their success is their single-minded dedication and hard work but the issue to be discussed here is why have the Indians who have generally remained in India, not been so prosperous—they too are enterprising and hard-working, still achieving much less. Why. Let’s try and find an answer: The question that we need to address is why India continues to stagnate while Indians continue to soar?

We need an answer why poverty is still a problem and India ranks near the bottom in the UNDP's Human Development Index, but high up in Transparency International's Corruption Index? Today with a GNP per head of $370, it occupies a lowly 177th position among 209 countries of the world.  

Reason # 1: People in India too are running --some are running even much faster than those in Washington but still not getting anywhere: This is the main problem people in India are burning their energy and producing a lot of heat and steam without any locomotion... It’s almost as if they are running on a treadmill...where there are a bit too many impediments for free enterprise and entrepreneurship. Instead of doing things themselves, people here expect the government to provide all the cushy jobs for them to relax, gossip and collect the pay.  

Reason # 2: People in India lack the will power and the killer instinct: This probably explains why India despite having a population of nearly one billion can’t produce even one Olympic medalist in individual sports whereas many smaller countries like Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Bahamas win gold.

Reason # 3: Indians have a peculiar ki farak painda attitude (KFK=what difference does it make?) The answer is bahut farak painda! (BFK=it makes a big difference!)

Reason # 4: Indians are good at theory but zero in practical life.
All of us may have come across many people in life who were good at name dropping and impressing people with bombastic language. They may be good story tellers but prove to be bad managers. Real ability of a person is not to be assessed by how many books he has read but how many of them can he practically recall. Real knowledge is not in books but real life where experience is biggest teacher. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied. To put it in differently here is what multibillion dollar man Manoj Bhargava says, “I think businesses in India give too much importance to education and mostly hire from top institutions. It's like hiring theoretical plumbers! None of us are too impressed by MBAs," he says.

Reason # 4: Garbage in – garbage out
It’s all about mind set... As they say what you sow so shall you reap? On input = Output in computer language. What you do, with what intent or sense of purpose of commitment makes an impact on the final outcome. Indians – more so those in India have a big attitude problem—they have a negative attitude which makes them realize the futility of doing a job before actually doing it. Many of them are suspicious by nature, brood, sulk, gossip and conspire to make others fail. It makes them happy not to see themselves happy but to see others unhappy. And when they carry the burden of such a mentality to office – they invariably make mistakes and are not able to do things on time or do them half-heartedly. So as per rule half-hearted input = half hearted results. If they too develop the will and can do attitude to transform the economy—we would soon be staring at the blueprint for an "Ever shining- Glorious India" inside-out.

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