• India’s Wealth Wallahs: A Book on New Wealth Creators

    By Shreyasi Singh

    In my recent book, The Wealth Wallahs, published by Bloomsbury India, I have spoken to a cross section of India’s new wealth creators and wealth managers. For too long, wealth management has been a secretive, covert business. Clients have usually been cagey about discussing their net worth, much less speaking frankly to others about how they manage it. Private bankers and wealth managers are even more reticent, restrained as they are by confidentiality agreements and the sensitivity that comes with the territory.

    The fear of losing wealth can be bigger than the joy of making it.

    In fact, the old glamour of the wealth management industry came from it being inaccessible and obscure. Such exclusivity has its origins in this being a cloak-and-dagger business. Much as people tried to “hide” their money, those who managed it were also best kept hidden. It was a world tighter than a moneylender’s fist.

    This book is an attempt to shed light on a subject that has long been confined to anonymous surveys and research reports where rich clients and their wealth managers are often only represented as statistical data.

    The Wealth Wallahs book cover

    The Wealth Wallahs, by Shreyasi Singh

    Read An Excerpt: 

    The piggy-bank model

    “Aditya Gupta’s father started Sharda Exports, a small carpet manufacturing unit, in Meerut in 1983. Gupta joined the business after an engineering degree from the University of Roorkee in 1991. It then had annual sales of less than Rs 40 lakh ($60,000). Today, the company has a flourishing real estate and exports business as well as two retail furniture brands — The Furniture Republic and The Rug Republic. The group turnover today, Gupta says, is “several hundred crores.”

    Unlike the dramatic stories of first-generation technology entrepreneurs profiled earlier, and the huge explosion of wealth they have witnessed, Gupta says his wealth is more organic. He calls it the “piggy- bank” model of wealth creation — adding moderate amounts of wealth, week by week and year by year.

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    In that sense, Gupta represents both the mezzanine generation that was referred to earlier, and an old-economy business without the razzmatazz of the new-economy technology ventures that dominate mainstream media space. Not surprisingly, both weigh heavy on how he sees his wealth, and the opportunities it affords him.

    In his tastefully designed corporate office in an industrial zone in Noida, he said to me, ‘I do feel like I deserve what I have because it’s come from having toiled year after year. When you’ve worked hard over decades, not only are you more likely to be attached to your wealth but you’re more conservative as well. That determines, to some extent, the amount of risk you want to take. Because we haven’t depended on one massive stroke of luck, even our plans for the future aren’t boom-or-bust ideas. Naturally, there is more aversion to risk, or more attachment to the wealth, if you’d like to call it that. The fear of losing wealth can be bigger than the joy of making it.’

    He reckons that most people with wealth are like him because apart from the past seven years or so — where some people have had very condensed start-to-exit business journeys — most other companies, even in the IT services, were organically built and therefore took longer to establish and generate substantial personal wealth from.

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    ‘The quick-rich model of extreme start-ups was an aberration, and one that didn’t quite capture the reality of wealth and how it shapes perceptions,’ feels Gupta.

    I found that more than even the quantum of the corpus built, the pace at which the wealth is created does sharply determine and influence attitudes, including how “attached” people feel to the wealth. Company owners who have been running their businesses for decades say that the bruising journey that building a business in India calls for does make them feel more deserving of the wealth they have amassed. The tenacity, perseverance and determination required also makes the wealth earned more valuable.

    ‘For people who began businesses with real risk and no outside capital, such as old-economy, manufacturing business like ours, getting to a base level of wealth was important from a survival point of view,’ explains a first-generation garments manufacturer in Mumbai.

    ‘Attitude towards the importance of wealth till a base level is reached is very different from that of people who had reached this base level of wealth before starting their business, such as senior professionals turning into entrepreneurs,’ he explained to me.

    Many other professionals I spoke to ascribed to this view as well. ‘When you build something up over thirty five years of hard work and a disciplined life, you do value that money more. It’s not like that money has suddenly bounced from the sky in a single event that we see with some younger businesses now,’ added HDFC’s Keki Mistry.”

    – Excerpted from The Wealth Wallahs, published by Bloomsbury India 

    About the author:
    Shreyasi Singh is a former journalist and presently Director, Careers & Programme Development at The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women. She tweets @shreyasisingh