Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Business Maharajas

By Gita Piramal

I came across this book in my second year of engineering. This was the time, when I recently got interested in business and management. So, the name itself enticed me. But, the book was expensive by the measures of any middle class student’s pocket money. So, I waited for three years till I joined the job. And with my first salary, I bought this book. And the investment was worth it. I really enjoyed reading it.

The book is very well researched work of Gita Piramal, who delved into the life histories of Indian Business Tycoons. It covers the life histories of following business houses of India:

  • Dhirubhai Ambani
  • Rahul Bajaj
  • Aditya Birla
  • R.P.Goenka
  • Brijmohan Khaitan
  • Bharat & Vijay Shah
  • Ratan Tata

Though the book focuses on the particular business men, but it covers all the major story of his clan. Every story starts with the family tree. Then it tells, who was the first major businessman of the family like JNT Tata of Tata’s, G D Birla of Birla’s. Also, it tells how each of the family made its fortune like Birla’s made it in trade of opium. Along with the particular family and businessman it gives glimpses of the communities and regions they originated from and worked in like Marwadi’s in the form of Birla’s, Gujarati’s in the form of Ambani’s, Tata’s in the form of Parsi’s ( people who came to India from Persia).

Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani belonged to very poor family, but he rose to great heights by his sheer hard work, shrewd conduct and burning ambition. He started his career in Turkey with the Oil Giant, but soon came back to India to start his own business. He started with textiles and reached to information technology. He was the first person to capitalize and demonstrate the power of IPO in India. He was also unpopular for sowing seeds of corruption to the grass root level. But this guy showed the unprecedented pace of success. Now his two sons Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani are governing his business. The name of the group is Reliance. It will be really exciting to see the vivid replay of his life in the form of movie ‘Guru’ by Mani Ratnam. More info about Dhirubhai Ambani could be found at

Rahul Bajaj

Rahul Bajaj, is a legendary entrepreneur, who created the first indigenous models of motorbikes in India. But, he is not first generation entrepreneur. He belongs to Marwadi community. He is known for creating and spearheading the two wheeler market of India via his company Bajaj Auto. The story tells us about the strikes it faced in the days, when Labour & Trade Unions were so strong that they can make or break the ruling party of the state. It also tells us about the Inspector Raj & License Raj era, where the quota was allotted to each and every factory under MRTP act. This was the result of mixed economy model India was following. According to Bajaj, he would have sold the legendary Bajaj Chetak at half the price and with the instant delivery. But, the prices were high and customers had to wait for months to get the delivery. This was because of the government policies.

Initially Bajaj’s collaborated with Piaggio, owned by Agnelli family (owners of Fiat ) of Italy for producing Vespa scooter, which was instant hit. But, after few years due to misunderstanding between both the parties it broke off. And Piaggio collaborated with LML.

To enter motorcycles market and to strengthen it scooter market, Bajaj wooed Honda Motors of Japan. After months of meetings and negotiations Honda chose Munjal’s over Bajaj’s to form Hero Honda (now the biggest two wheeler producer in the world) for making motorcycles and collaborated with Firodia’s to form Kinetic Honda for making scooters. And finally, Bajaj collaborated with Kawasaki for making motorcycles.

With the onset of globalization in 1991, he eyed four wheelers market. He tried to strike a deal with Chrysler, Renault and Fuji. But the closest he could get was in the case of Ashok Leyland, which he finally lost to Hinduja’s.

Today he runs his empire with the help of his two sons Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj. And bikes Pulsar and Discover are giving the toughest fight to the foreign giants like Honda. I think they know Indian market better than others. In my personal case, I was in dilemma whether to buy Bajaj Pulsar or Honda’s Unicorn. Though Unicorn is smoother and better engineered bike but it lacked the most important thing required to attract Indian youth. ‘The Rugged Feeling’. So I chose Pulsar over Unicorn, and I feel the rush of adrenaline every time I drive it. More info about Rahul Bajaj can be found at

In total, this gave me the actual understanding of the works and lifes of businessmen, whom we daily hear about and quote. It also gave me understanding about the dynamics and history of Indian business market. It is one of the two books, which gave me revealed such truths and facts. The other one was ‘India Unbound’ by Gurcharan Das. Above all, it helped me to overcome the fear of reading ‘Economic Times’.

I recommend this book to anybody, who wants to understand the evolution of Indian business during and after independence.

I will add about the other businessman in next few days. Keep reading to get the updates.


Hari said...

You are pretty Meticulous in your research hmm prabal,,

Good stuff,

Prabal Aggarwal said...

thanks hari