8 stories of Self-made Richest Men in India that will inspire you the most

November 16, 2016 |

Good for India that a majority of its billionaires are self-made. A paper titled ‘The Origins of the Super Rich: The Billionaire Characteristics Database’, by Caroline Freund and Sarah Oliver, reported that 63% of India’s billionaires are self made and their wealth accounts for about 49% of the total wealth of billionaires in the country. How cool is that?
But what truly inspires millennials and Gen-Z are the stories of their making. We pick for you eight amazing stories of some of the richest men, albeit self-made, from India.

The ambitious drug company owner: Dilip Shanghvi


Listed among Asia’s wealthiest self-made billionaires, Dilip Shanghvi (61) has always been a confident and determined human being with a sharp business acumen. He founded Sun Pharmaceutical Industries which is India’s most valuable drug company with a market cap of $27 Billion. His net worth was estimated at $16.9 Billion. Dilip, who was born in Amreli in Gujrat, graduated in commerce from the University of Kolkata. He began his career with helping his father in his wholesale generic drugs business in Kolkata. But Dilip wasn’t content with doing just this. He wanted to manufacture drugs. He founded Sun Pharmaceuticals in 1982 with a mere Rs 10,000/- in Vapi. He acquired the American firm Caraco Pharma in 1997 and Israel’s Taro Pharma in 2007. But what really made Sun such a big deal? That happened with an interesting deal. In April 2014 Sun, Ranbaxy and Daiichi Sankyo (the majority shareholder in Ranbaxy) agreed that Sun would acquire all outstanding shares of Ranbaxy for $3.2B in Sun stock and that Sun would take on $800M in Ranbaxy debt. The deal was finally closed in March 2015 and made Sun the largest drug company in India and the fifth largest in the world, and made Daiichi the second largest shareholder in Sun. That’s the kind of leadership example Dilip has set for the rest of the world.

India’s Bill Gates: Azim Premji


Forbes called him ‘India’s Bill Gates’ and hell yeah! He is truly the Czar of the Indian IT industry. Who would have thought back in the 80s that Azim Premji would turn his father’s soap business into an IT conglomerate? With a net worth of $17 billion, the tech tycoon Azim Premji has also been listed among TIME’s 100 most influential people. Premji’s father Muhammed Hashim had founded the Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd in 1945 selling products such as Sunflower Vanaspati, laundry soaps etc. When Hashim passed away in 1966, young Azim – then 21 – returned home from Stanford University and took the mantle of the legacy. Premji diversified the company dealing in various products until in the 1980, he quickly tapped the potential of the emerging Information Technology markets. He smartly took the advantage of the vacuum left behind by the expulsion of IBM from India. Wipro became a leading IT services corporation. In January, 2011 the 71-year-old affluent Indian was awarded the Padma Vibhushan. Premji who often says ‘being rich does not thrill me’, gives away a major portion of his wealth to various philanthropic activities.

The stubborn transformer: Shiv Nadar


The cofounder and chairman of HCL Group, Shiv Nadar (71) today has a net worth of $12.9 Billion. Awarded Padma Bhushan for his contribution in the Indian IT industry, Nadar is also the 156th richest man in the world. Nadar has the credit of transforming the IT hardware company in the 1970s into an IT enterprise over the next three decades by constantly reinventing his company’s focus. Born in Moolaipozhi village in Tamil Nadu, Shiv Nadar studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. He began working at Walchand Groups’s Cooper Engineering in Pune when he realized his calling. He founded a company named Microcomp, along with friends. The company was selling teledigital calculators in the Indian market. But Nadar was more ambitious than that and finally founded HCL in 1976, with an investment of Rs. 187,000. Nadar is an active philanthropist and believes in living a simple life.

The rebellious businessman: Gautam Adani


Another self-made richest man in India is the founder and chairman of the Adani Group. Gautam Adani (54) has net worth of $10.7 billion, according to Forbes. Adani’s story is the typical rebellious type where he refused to join his father’s business of textile unit and moved to the city of dreams Mumbai at the age of 18. With just a few hundred rupees in his pocket, young Gautam first worked as a diamond sorter at Mahindra brothers till he founded his own diamond brokerage business in Mumbai. By the time he was 20, he had made his first million during the 1980s. However, since he was needed back home by his elder brother Mahasukh, for a new plastic factory, Gautam returned to Ahmedabad. In 1988, he established Adani Enteprises Ltd (formerly Adani Exports Limited) that traded in a variety of power and agricultural commodities. Gautam benefitted immensely from the 1991 liberalization and expanded his business. In 1993, he won the contract of Mundra Port – the largest private sector port in India and has never looked back since. Today his company is a globally integrated infrastructure player with businesses spanning coal mining and trading, oil & gas exploration, ports, multi-modal logistics, power generation, Agri Infrastructure, edible oil & transmission and gas distribution.

The man of bold choices: Uday Kotak


Uday Kotak (57), with a net worth of $8.3 billion, is a man known for his bold and daring choices. Born in a Gujarati joint family, Uday found the cotton trading family business slightly less interesting. Since 60 people lived under one roof in his family, he called the combination: Capitalism at work and Socialism at home. After his MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Uday refused a lucrative job and decided to found a bill-discounting startup in 1980s with less than US$80,000 that he borrowed from friends and family. But Uday was ambitious and determined. He diversified the company into financial services and made Kotak Mahindra Bank a US$19 billion conglomerate. His Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd is also the first company in India’s corporate history to receive a banking license from Reserve Bank of India. In 2006, Uday Kotak ended a 14 year partnership with Goldman Sachs by acquiring its 25% stake in two subsidiaries for $72 million. Uday has been honoured for his success and contribution several times with awards such as Entrepreneur of the Year (Forbes) and Best Transformational Leader Award (Asian Centre for Corporate Governance and Sustainability) among others.

Owner of a telecom force: Sunil Mittal


One of the 8th richest people in India as listed by Forbes with a net worth of $7 billion, Sunil Bharti Mittal (59) is a force to reckon with for more than one reason. His Bharti Airtel is today India’s largest and world’s third largest telecom company. Now beat that. Born to Punjabi parents, Sunil dreamed big as a kid. At age 18, he began his entrepreneurial journey with mere Rs 20,000 that he had borrowed from his father. In what turned out to be a journey full of ups and down, Sunil proved his mettle as an aggressive and stubborn businessman. His first business was to make crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers. He began an import enterprise by the name of Bharti Overseas Trading Company along with his brothers Rakesh and Rajan. He imported Suzuki Motor’s portable electric power generators from Japan. But soon the government banned the import of generators. So in 1984, Sunil started assembling push-button phones in India. Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL) was incorporated and entered into a technical tie up with Siemens AG of Germany for manufacture of electronic push button phones. By the early 1990s, Sunil was making fax machines, cordless phones and other telecom gear. But then the government banned the import of gensets. Sunil was out of business overnight. But Sunil wasn’t the one to give up so easily. In 1992, he successfully bid for one of the four mobile phone network licences auctioned in India. Padmabushan Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Airtel today has 230 million subscribers.

The father of Indian IT Sector: Narayan Murthy


Listed as one of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time by Forbes magazine, Narayan Murthy (70) has a net worth of $1.8 billion. He is mostly quoted and is famous for his down-to-earth example stories all around the globe. For instance, Murthy taught his children the habit of cleaning toilets in their home. He himself cleans the toilet of his house because his father despised the caste system in India that teaches us that lower caste people should clean the toilets. Similarly, Infosys employees testify that Murthy never used the landline phones of his office to make any personal phone calls. For that purpose he used a paid phone within the premises and when the mobile phones came up, he used his mobile instead of using official landline phones for using personal calls. The Padmabhushan and Padmashri awardee, Narayan Murthy founded Infosys in 1981 along with his six friends and very little capital borrowed from his wife. Murthy was born in Kolar district of Karnataka. He studied electrical engineering from National Institute of Engineering and then studied M.Tech from IIT Kanpur. He first worked as chief systems programmer at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. But he knew he was meant for entrepreneurship. He founded an IT consulting firm called Softronics which unfortunately tanked after one year. Murthy was forced to take up a job in Patni Computer Systems as General Manager. Soon he realized he needed to get back to entrepreneurship since it was his truly calling. Infosys has never looked back ever since and has made Murthy the father of Indian IT Sector.

The Czar of diamond designs: Nirav Modi


Growing up in Antwerp, Nirav Modi comes from a family of diamantaires. Interestingly, his interest in art and design was sown during childhood when he visited various museums in Europe. Diamond stories over dinner time were common during his younger years yet Nirav never wanted to join the family business. Instead, he decided to attend Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Japanese and finance. But as fate had it, he lost interest and quit. Nirav founded Firestar – a diamond sourcing and trading company – when he moved to India and trained in diamond trading business back in 1999. It was a profit-making business empire but Nirav’s deepest interest still hadn’t come to the fore. It was in 2008 when a friend asked him to make a pair of earrings, Nirav discovered his flare for jewelry that eventually led him to found one of world’s most trusted diamond design houses – Nirav Modi. He was the first Indian jeweler to have been featured on the covers of Christie’s and Sotheby’s Catalogues. He entered the Forbes list of Indian billionaires in 2013 and has since remained on the list. The 45-year-old diamond jewelry designer prefers subtlety in his designs which have been worn by Kate Winslet and Aishwarya Rai. His net worth is $1.6 billion in 2016.
For more interesting Desi stories, watch this space folks!