NEW DELHI — As India’s richest men hit their 60s and beyond, succession questions about the next generation of tycoons will increasingly emerge in a country where business is still dominated by family-run enterprises.
Bloomberg has profiled some of these young guns of corporate India, selecting those who are 35 and under, based in India, have a public profile, and whose billionaire fathers are valued at more than US$2 billion (RM7.8 billion). Some have started their own ventures and avoided their fathers’ shadows. Others have pitched their tents inside the family enterprise. Here’s a look at them:
Isha and Akash Ambani
Isha and Akash are the 25-year-old, twin brother-and-sister scions of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. They’re being groomed as the future of Reliance Industries Ltd, their father’s US$42 billion conglomerate, as the company diversifies beyond energy and refineries into consumer-facing businesses.
Both were appointed to the boards of new venture Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, as well as Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, in 2014. Reliance Jio, which will start operations later this year, has received funding of more than US$20 billion from the parent group and has plans to offer 4G mobile-phone services to 70% of India.
Isha, a former McKinsey & Co consultant, also launched Reliance group’s e-commerce foray into fashion retail — called Ajio — at this year’s Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, India’s version of runway shows in Paris and Milan.
The only daughter of technology billionaire Shiv Nadar, 34-year-old Roshni is chief executive officer and executive director of HCL Corp, the US$7 billion holding firm for a group that includes listed HCL Technologies Ltd and HCL Infosystems Ltd. Roshni returned to India in 2008 after a stint as a news producer at Sky News UK and soon took up the role.
Roshni is also a trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which has set up a university, engineering colleges, schools and VidyaGyan academies that mentor bright students from poor Indian rural families. Her goal is to try to level the playing field and create opportunities for all Indians, she said in a November interview. “VidyaGyan must produce a prime minister for India,” Roshni said. “VidyaGyan must produce a few Nobel laureates for India.”
Adar Cyrus Poonawalla
The 35-year-old son of India’s seventh-richest man, Cyrus Poonawalla, is associated with two contrasting superlatives: Asia’s largest vaccine maker and one of India’s largest stud farms. After completing undergraduate business management studies at the University of Westminster in the UK, Adar stepped into his father’s shoes and expanded the Serum Institute of India Ltd’s operations across 140 countries, making it the third-largest vaccine producer in the world.
When he’s not making life-saving serums combating diphtheria, measles, hepatitis or mumps — jabbed into roughly 65% of world’s children — Adar can be found breeding race horses or customising cars. Adar once fashioned an S-Class Mercedes into a winged Batmobile after his son asked him if Batman and his ride were real.
The spending spree hasn’t diluted the focus at Serum. Adar’s vision is to triple revenue to 120 billion rupees (RM7.1 billion) over the next seven years, and add products including a rotavirus vaccine that can protect against as many as five strains of the pathogen. Next up: initial public offering?
Kavin Bharti Mittal
The 28-year old son of Sunil Bharti Mittal inherited the entrepreneurial bug from his father, who started out at 18 making bicycle crankshafts and importing portable Suzuki generators before creating Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s top wireless carrier.
Kavin, at 20, founded AppSpark to develop applications for the mobile phones. In 2009, AppSpark launched an iPhone application, Movies Now, to help users buy film tickets on the move.
In 2012, Kavin set up Hike Messenger, an instant messaging service similar to WhatsApp. By June 2014, Hike Messenger crossed 20 million users, catapulted by a privacy feature that lets teenagers flirt in private and hide chats from their parents. By then, it had received at least US$21 million from Bharti Enterprises Pvt Ltd and SoftBank Corp. In August 2014,Tiger Global Management invested US$65 million.
The chat app, which now also allows group calling and file sharing, reached 100 million users earlier this year — a milestone at which he could start talking about “monetisation,” Kavin said in 2014.
When the 31-year-old son of billionaire Ajay Piramal joined his father’s group in 2011, he skipped the US$4 billion conglomerate’s flagship healthcare, glass making and fund management businesses. Instead he set up Piramal Realty. He focuses only on Mumbai and its outskirts, resisting the temptation among developers of going national and burning cash.
The soft-spoken scion wants to create a market leader. “There is no Emaar Properties, no Sun Hung Kai in India,” he said in an August 2015 interview, referring to the real estate giants that built big businesses in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Warburg Pincus & Co and Goldman Sachs paid US$417 million last year for small stakes in the company, even though the builder, with 15 million square feet under development, hasn’t completed a single project.
As the group’s executive director, Anand weighs in on strategic decisions and comes up with quirky solutions. One is a program where buyers can sell their homes back to the company if they don’t like them when they’re completed. In India’s oversupplied home market, that’s gutsy.
The elder of the two Shanghvi siblings, Aalok is as media-shy as his billionaire father and India’s second-richest man, Dilip Shanghvi. His father is a first-generation entrepreneur who started out as a small-time medicine distributor in Kolkata in the 1980s and went on to set up India’s largest drug maker in Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, which acquired beleaguered peer Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and Israel-based Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd to create a global generics producer with annual sales of US$4.2 billion.
Aalok shares his father’s entrepreneurial streak and founded PV Powertech Pvt Ltd, which has installed solar panels across Europe, Asia and Africa.
Billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla was forced to take over as the Aditya Birla Group chairman in 1995 when he was just 28. His eldest daughter willingly turned entrepreneur when she was 17.
In 2013, Ananyashree set up her venture, Svatantra Microfin Pvt Ltd to lend tiny loans to rural women for buying sewing machines or starting papadum businesses. In doing so, the teenager declined to join her father’s US$41 billion conglomerate — known for making cement, aluminium, apparel and offering wireless services — to enter microfinance, a field that had sometimes been criticised for high interest rates and coercive lending tactics that were blamed for borrower suicides in India.
Her firm has since expanded to at least 50 branches across India servicing 80,000 borrowers with a loan portfolio of about US$20 million as of April, according to its website. She now plans to launch a premium e-commerce portal that will source inaccessible handicrafts from around the world. Ananyashree and her mother, Neerja Birla, have also started MPower — aimed at helping those with mental health disorders.
Ananyashree has been a state-level chess player, taught herself to play guitar and sports tattoos. Among her five, the one on her left arm says “Conquer”. — Bloomberg
(US$1 = RM3.95)