Where is the next generation of rich Indians?

The great entrepreneurial spirit shown by the GCC's Indian community is at risk of dying out

This week, we have decided to devote almost the entire issue of Arabian Business to Indians in the GCC, as we celebrate their remarkable success in our first ever Indian Rich List. They’ve done rather well haven’t they? Five billionaires in our top 30, with the legendary Micky Jagtiani leading the way with $3.2bn.

[Click here to see the full list]

Having chaired the meeting two weeks ago when we finalised our wealth estimations for the top 30, two things quickly struck me: most of these guys (in fact I would say 90 percent) are from the UAE. Second, even more of them (I would say 95 percent) came to Dubai many years ago with virtually nothing. Today, they are amongst the richest people in the region, all with far more money than they could possibly consume through the rest of
their lives.

This tells us couple of things — that Dubai is, and has always been, a fantastic place to come and start your business. And second, Indians make great entrepreneurs. Micky Jagtiani had one small shop in 1973, today his revenue is  $3.8bn.  BR Shetty ran a small pharmacy in Dubai back in 1973. Today he is the boss of the New Medical Centre with a fortune of $1.72bn.

And my personal favourite, Yogesh Mehta. Having first run a smaller chemical trading business in Mumbai that ended in failure, he picked Dubai as his next move, 21 years ago. “I just said to my wife let’s go some place where there is more opportunity,” he tells me.

Mehta spent his first two months in the emirate visiting the library each day to learn more about the region’s chemical industry, before starting a chemical division within a food company. But four years later, in 1994, he decided it was time to run his own show. “My wife said we have a car and four walls, let’s not change.  But I said let me start this, let me try it.  I have a dream to build a terminal,” he says.

Today he has $623m. Wow. But here is a thought: in 21 years from now, when my successors are printing the 21st Arabian Business Indian Rich List, will the guys on it have this much cash? I ask that because the great entrepreneurial spirit shown in the past by the Gulf’s Indian community no longer exists in my view. The younger generation (many of whom I have met), seem to have it rather too easy.

Nice education, nice house, nice car. Guaranteed future. No need, no desire and no hunger to succeed. They may all have degrees from Harvard, but where is their real business acumen? Where is their determination to take risks? Where is that Yogesh Mehta spirit of a car and four walls not being good enough?

Life after Wadah Khanfar

The resignation of Wadah Khanfar is a hugely emotive subject, especially here in the Arab world. The station’s coverage of the Arab Spring has been masterful or misplaced, depending on your point of view. Likewise, his departure is being celebrated and mourned in equal measure. So I will keep my views to myself.

 But leaving aside the politics, I would say this: purely as a journalist, he was amongst the very best in the world. Four years ago, I sat next to Khanfar at a dinner party hosted by our chairman.

The subject of the war in Iraq came up, and one of the guests asked Khanfar what his experiences in Baghdad had been like (he was the Bagdad bureau chief during the Iraq war).

His reply, which I made a note of at the time, is worth reprinting here, as it sums up perfectly the man and the company he led.

“A war is not about military air strikes, and the movement of armies and all these kinds of issues. It is about human beings. It is about the human being who is being killed and about the human being who is doing the killing. The proper journalist looks into this culture and is not consumed by other things. Some of our colleagues have just been consumed by giving data. It is not about giving data, it is about giving spirit. And that is important, and I think Al Jazeera has been able to capture that.”

The jury is out on whether Al Jazeera, without Wadah Khanfar, can continue to capture that spirit.

(Anil Bhoyrul is the editorial director of Arabian Business. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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Posted by: Navin Sharma

The next generation of Rich Indians is in India! You will find a hundred young indians in the $200 Million league in any mid size town in India, there are Real estate, Media, Contruction, Retail, Software moguls being made everyday in India.

Indian's were succesful in the 60's 70's and 80's in the Gulf because there was oppotunity here and few regulations, now there is opportunity in India and you will find Indians there but yes they will not get the same unregulated labor market with job bans visa bans etc that led to obscene profits being made in education, healthcare and retail sectors which normally should have a social touch as well.

Posted by: Anilesh

Surely, the previous generation had the advantage of being around during 'a' growth period that saw Dubai transform. But, this does not mean that the younger generation cannot repeat or better their achievements - i guess an entrepreneur has to make the most of the business environment that he/she is in, and provide exceptional goods or services that sell effectively, recession or not... Yes, the rich list will change over time with expat Indian newcomers who make it big, but i doubt it will include too many second generation Indian youngsters as they (mostly) prefer driving a Mercedes to risking capital for a new venture!

Posted by: Samhit

Where else in this world will u get cheap indian captive labour(banned if u decide to look for greener pastures) to give your business the edge. A cursory comparison at the pay structure of these companies with their competetors will shed light on their success secrets. Its not for the love of their country that they are employing their own countrymen! Besides the system in this country is tailormade for them to become vulgarly rich. There might be exceptions but the common thread through all these success stories is less pay for more work(understaffed??), no freedom for employees to move jobs(check the pharma guy), a monopoly dealership or agency, etc.,

Posted by: DUBAI DIARY

My father came here in '75 and we're still here in Dubai. He has his business and so do I in another field. What I have been telling him all this while is that whatever he and his likes did successfully with one step till10 or 15 years back, today we need to take 100 or more steps for the same thing and then face failure. Its law of averages now. Before there was no LOA everybody was welcome. It was free for all and everybody was invited, today its not true. There was no traffic, no salik, no parking fees and biggest of all... No Competion!!! I would be impressed to see the list of millionaires who made it in the last 10 years and that too minus those Real Estate over night rich gang. Yes I agree that Indians are good at business and the community thrives here because of their excellent acumen at work which is conservative when need be and professional when its called for!!! But there are hoardes of those unprofessional idiots too who are actually in large nos spoiling the reputation.

Posted by: Vineet

I agree with Dubai Diary on one specific point in particular. Can you please look up (or compile) a list of the millionaires who have made it in the last 10 years alone. Lets keep the real-estate "gurus" out of this list please.

And I don't get it, what is Wadah Khanfar doing in this article?

Posted by: karpaka rajan v chettiar

it is true that a handful of people have made riches beyond what they themselves had dreamt. However, there are many who have fixed realistic goals and achieved through fair means. Let us not be party for one vulnerable to form unrealistic dreams and be pushed to desperation. Let us motivate people to form realistic dreams, motivate them to design effective plans and execute the plan to achieve their realistic dreams. there is not substitute to hard work.

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