GUJARATIS AND BANIYAS OF INDIA
MR. BANIYA THE BILLIONAIRE
A very very interesting story on India ‘s caste issues
Forbes magazine has put out a list of the world’s 1,210 billionaires.
Fifty-five of them are Indians. A billion dollars is Rs. 4,480 crore.
A Baniya is a member of the Vaish caste, originating mainly from Rajasthan and Gujarat .
They are under 1% of India ‘s population. Yet, 26 of the 55 are baniyas!
India ‘s richest man is a Baniya (Lakshmi Mittal, world’s sixth richest with $31.1 billion),
India ‘s second richest man is a Baniya (Mukesh Ambani, $27 billion),
India ‘s third richest man is a Khoja (Azim Premji, $16.8 billion),
India ‘s fourth richest men are Baniyas (Shashi and Ravi Ruia, $15.8 billion),
India ‘s fifth richest person is a Baniya (Savitri Jindal, $13.2 billion),
India ‘s sixth richest man is a Baniya (Gautam Adani, $10 billion),
India ‘s seventh richest man is a Baniya (Kumar Mangalam Birla, $9.2 billion),
India ‘s eighth richest man is a Baniya (Anil Ambani, $8.8 billion),
India ‘s ninth richest man is a Baniya (Sunil Mittal, $8.3 billion).
India ‘s 10th richest man is a Parsi (Adi Godrej, world’s 130th richest with $7.3 billion).
Score: Baniyas 8, Rest of India 2. If we consider the Gujaratis Godrej and Premji (from the Lohana caste) as coming from mercantile communities then actually Rest of India wasn’t playing this match so far.
India ‘s 11th richest man is K.P. Singh of DLF ($7.3 billion). He is thefirst departure from our trend of mercantile castes. Singh is a peasant, the most populous caste grouping of India,
about 50% of our population.
From numbers 11 to 20, there are four Baniyas. They are Anil Agarwal of Vedanta ($6.4 billion),
Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharma ($6.1 billion), Uday Kotak ($3.2 billion), and Subhash Chandra Goel of Zee, ($2.9 billion). The non-Baniyas are Shiv Nadar of HCL ($5.6 billion),
Malvinder and Shivinder Singh of Ranbaxy ($4.1 billion), Kalanithi Maran of Sun TV ($3.5 billion), Mukesh Jagtiani of Landmark ($3 billion) and Pankaj Patel of Cadila ($2.6 billion).
Between 21 and 30, there are five Baniyas. They are Indu Jain of The Times of India ($2.6 billion),
Desh Bandhu Gupta of Lupin ($2.1 billion), Sudhirand Samir Mehta of Torrent ($2 billion),
Aloke Lohia of Indorama ($2 billion) and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon ($1.9 billion).
The five non-Baniyas are G.M. Rao of GMR ($2.6 billion), Cyrus Poonawalla of the Serum Institute ($2.3 billion),
Mumbai builder Rajan Raheja ($2.2 billion), Narayana Murthy ($2 billion) and Gautam Thapar of Avantha ($2 billion). Of the non-Baniyas, three are from mercantile communities:
Poonawalla (Parsi), Raheja (Shikarpuri Sindhi) and Thapar (Khatri). Murthy is Brahmin.
Between 31 and 40 are two Baniyas: Rahul Bajaj ($1.6 billion) and Ajay Piramal ($1.4 billion).
The non-Baniyas include three Brahmins: Nandan Nilekani ($1.8 billion) and
S. Gopalakrishnan ($1.6 billion) of Infosys, and Vijay Mallya ($1.4 billion).
Three of the others are from mercantile castes: Chandru Raheja ($1.9 billion),
Brijmohan Lall Munjal of Hero Motors ($1.5 billion) and Vikas Oberoi ($1.4 billion).
The last two are K. Anji Reddy ($1.5 billion) (from Andhra’s dominant peasant community) and Ajay Kalsi of Indus Gas ($1.7 billion).
Between 41 and 50 are five Baniyas. They are R.P. Goenka ($1.3 billion), Rakesh Jhunjhunwala ($1.2 billion), Brij Bhushan Singhal ($1.2 billion), B.K. Modi ($1.1 billion) and Mumbai builder Mangal Prabhat Lodha ($1.1 billion). The non-Baniyas are Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge ($1.3 billion), Keshub Mahindra ($1.2 billion), K. Dinesh ($1.2 billion) and S.D. Shibulal ($1.1 billion) of Infosys, and Yusuf Hamied of Cipla ($1.1 billion).
The last five, from 51 to 55, include two Baniyas: Mumbai builder Mofatraj Munot of Kalpataru ($1 billion) and Ashwin Dani of Asian Paints ($1 billion). Two of the others are
from mercantile castes: Parsi Anu Aga of Thermax ($1 billion) and Khatri Harindarpal Banga of Noble ($1 billion). Delhi builder Ramesh Chandra of Unitech ($1 billion) ends our list of Indians with a billion dollars or more.
The list has three Parsis, two Muslims and Sikhs in one spot (shared by the Ranbaxy Singhs).
Banga is also a Sikh name but Harindarpal is clean-shaven. All of them, except Poonawalla, have inherited their wealth, though in the case of one (Premji), he took a small firm and
made it global. There is nobody from the scheduled tribes or castes.
India ‘s large peasant castes have some representation (Singh, Patel, Reddy), but not much.
There are 26 Baniyas on our list. Many of them inherited their wealth, but just as many (Mittal, Ruias, Adani, Dhoot among others) are self-made.
The list has 16 Rajasthanis, and 13 Gujaratis. Every single Rajasthani is from one caste, Vaish, though they are from two faiths: Hindu and Jain.
Only Gujarat is capable of producing billionaires drawn from four different faiths-Hindu, Parsi, Jain and Muslim-and three different castes: Baniya, Khatri and peasant.
This is unique in India and there is something about this secular mercantile culture that produces great men across communities. What is it? Three out of the four biggest leaders of the subcontinent under British rule were Gujarati, and they were drawn from these three castes: Gandhi, Jinnah and Patel. Only 5% of India ‘s population, Gujaratis don’t have the numbers to dominate its democratic politics. But businesses are not run in
democratic fashion. And to rise, you need quality, not quantity.
The heartland of India , where our quantity resides, is missing from this list. Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh have little or no representation and this
does not surprise us.
On the list are 10 south Indians, in proportion to their 20% share of India ‘s population.
The famous five from Infosys are obviously self-made. Of the others, four are first-generation wealthy. This is a good indicator for the future, and it restores some balance in favor of Rest of India.
Two final observations. India ‘s greatest businessman is not on this list.Why is that?
It is because Ratan Tata owns less than 1% of Tata Sons. He is exceptional in every way.
Mr. Gujarati THE GREAT
“Any place in the world where a Gujarati comes and resides soon becomes a Gujarat.” is a popular saying. It can be any corner of the world. The enterprise is the same. Whatever the odds, he will prosper.
Most likely, he will stay vegetarian, worship deities in his home and when the time comes, go back to Gujarat, marry a comely girl and the two will brave the new surroundings.
The two from that westernmost corner of India could multiply with time, if there are opportunities..
During my visit to the United States, even in small towns in the back of beyond, I stayed in motels run by Patels. Indeed, the two rhymed and rocked together.
The Patel would provide clean beds and efficient communications but being vegetarian, no food. That had to be bought and eaten in a restaurant next door. It was outsourcing, long before it came into vogue elsewhere.
I found the Gujaratis living well in Britain, driving limousines. They worked hard, running newspaper kiosks. They also worshipped and their women spent lavishly on clothes and gold ornaments. Quite like the people back home.
Never forgetting their roots, they often return to Gujarat, but always repatriating money to aged relations and sending in charity to build a home, hospital, school or temple.
The Arabian Sea has beckoned them over the centuries, since much of Gujarat is parched. I have known families who have traded from the Persian Gulf to Japan.
This was, of course, before the exodus to the West from the 1960s onwards.
The late Prince Klaus of the Netherlands once said how impressed he was in the 1940s at the way a provision store in front of his house in Africa, run by a Gujarati family, virtually never closed. Every member of the family took turns manning it.
So impressed was he that he advised Dutch businessmen to invest in India with a warning: “If you don’t go there, others will.”
Unlike most of the other Indian diaspora, the Gujaratis did not go overseas at the behest of the British rulers, to lay rail tracks and work in sugarcane plantations.
They made their own way, long before, and as traders. They alternated between competing and cooperating with the British colonialists in lands as far apart as Fiji and Guyana, with Africa in between.
In rare cases, they took sides. One such occasion was the late 18th century during the British siege of Zanzibar. The Gujarati traders chose to side with the sultan. But all that is history.
They have proved law-abiding even during the most adverse circumstances they faced in Africa. Save one British-born man who joined the al-Qaeda network in the United Kingdom, none has been found wanting as a citizen of the country he has chosen to reside.
How has Gujarat, carved out as a separate state in 1960, fared? It has been a mixed bag, but very different from the rest of India.
Its latest achievement has been to welcome Nano, the world’s cheapest car, that will roll out before the end of year.
Ratan Tata had chosen West Bengal with an eye on the potential market in Southeast Asia, but was booted out by political protests. He had tempting offers of tax concessions from several other states, eager to rehabilitate Nano.
He chose Gujarat, this time eyeing the West Asian market.
Besides good infrastructure, Gujarat offers him industrial peace, which is most important to him. The percentage of man-days lost in Gujarat due to labour unrest is 0.42 per cent, the lowest in India.
Tata and many other entrepreneurs are impressed that under Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the face of industrial Gujarat is changing. Obviously, they are prepared to forget but not forgive the large-scale killings of 2002, after Modi renewed his popular mandate not once, but twice.
According to the August 2008 report of the National Council of Applied Economic Research), a premier Indian economic think-tank, the richest city in India is Surat, ahead of Bangalore
and Chennai, with an average annual household income of over US$11,000 (RM38,500) per year.
Eighty per cent of all diamonds sold in the world are polished in Surat’s 10,000 diamond units.
The only non-Jews in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem diamond bourse are Gujaratis, who have an impressive presence in Antwerp, the world’s biggest diamond hub. Hence, between 2004-5 and 2007-8, Surat’s middle class doubled in size and its poor reduced by a third.
The fifth richest city in India is Ahmedabad, ahead of Mumbai and Delhi, and miles ahead of Kolkata. Of Gujarat’s 18,048 villages, 17,940 have electricity.
The world’s largest oil refinery is coming up in Jamnagar. Owned by Reliance, it refines 660,000 barrels of oil a day and will double that this year.
Thirty per cent of India’s cotton is grown in Gujarat, 40 per cent of India’s art-silk is manufactured in Surat, employing 700,000 people. The world’s third largest denim manufacturer is Ahmedabad’s Arvind Mills.
A KPMG report says 40 per cent of India’s pharmaceutical industry is based in Gujarat with companies like Torrent, Zydus Cadila, Alembic, Dishman and Sun Pharma.
Gujarat’s gross domestic product has been growing at 12 per cent annually for the last 12 years. This is as fast as China’s.
India’s wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, is Gujarati. Forbes says he is the world’s fifth richest man, worth US$43 billion.
Azim Premji of IT giant Wipro is Gujarati. He is the world’s 21st richest man, worth US$17 billion.
Ten of the 25 richest Indians are Gujarati.
Some of the best business communities in India — Parsis, Jains, Memons, Banias, Khojas and Bohras — speak Gujarati. Wherever they live and prosper, their home is Gujarat.
South Asia’s two greatest leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, were both Gujaratis from trading communities, one a Bania, the other a Khoja.
Gujaratis number 55 million, five per cent of India’s population living on six per cent of its surface area, but hold 30 per cent of all Indian stock.
Gujaratis account for 16 per cent of all Indian exports and 17 per cent of GDP.