The people who ensure the world takes note of India.
Winners of India's coveted civilian awards, the Padma Shree and the Padma Bhushan, they are India's beacons. Shrewd, moneyed and proud to be Indian, these luminaries have forced the world to sit up and take notice of their country as a new global economic powerhouse.
Azim Hashim Premji, Wipro
While studying engineering at Stanford University, Premji's father died suddenly, forcing him to return to India to take care of the family business of making cooking oil. At 21, when attending his first general body meeting, he was advised to sell his shares and return to his studies as he was too young to handle the business. This made Premji only more determined and soon Wipro diversified into soaps, lights, hydraulics and software. Under his leadership, it has changed into a pioneering global billion-dollar company that provides business solutions and technology to a global clientele. It was the first IT software giant to be listed in the New York Stock Exchange. When the West was crying foul about how Indian software companies, especially those in the BPO sector, were taking away their jobs, Wipro proved them wrong by providing jobs to Westerners. Today at 63, Premji is the Chairman of Wipro Technologies, one of the largest software exporters and lives in Bengaluru, with his family.
Ratan Naval Tata, Tata Group
This 70-year-old bachelor was born into one of India's oldest and richest business families. Being born with a silver spoon does not necessarily mean you have the ability to make money but that is precisely what Tata did. He not only diversified the 100-year-plus old parent company by starting new ventures in fields such as software thereby turning it into a global empire, but was also responsible for producing the first wholly Made in India car, Indica, in 1998 and in 2007, the cheapest car in the world, the Nano. He joined the company when he was 25 and in 1991, took over the Chairmanship from JRD Tata. Under him Tata Consultancy Services went public and Tata Motors was listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Tata retired recently after completing his dream project of producing the car that many claimed was impossible to make – the Tata Nano – and after making the Tata Group worth several times more than when he inherited it. He is now concentrating on trying to make a car that can run on air.
Sunil Mittal, Bharti Group
Known as India's Telecom King, he is a Punjabi entrepreneur who started his first company at the age of 18 with a capital investment of Rs20,000 (about Dh1,718), which he borrowed from his father to help his company make crankshafts for bicycles. Since then he has been experimenting with ventures that included the first Indian company to make push-button phones in India. He runs the largest cell phone service provider company in India namely Airtel and pioneered the mobile phone revolution in India. In July this year Airtel said first-quarter net profit increased by 34 per cent. Net profit for the three months to June was Rs20.25 billion. Today Mittal is the Chairman of the Bharti Group, a company he started with his two siblings and has a personal net worth of $5 billion (about Dh18 billion). Within a decade, Mittal transformed his company from a domestic enterprise into a global one.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon Ltd.
Born in Bengaluru, Kiran, 55, is one of the few self-made women entrepreneur-billionaires of India. It was 30 years ago, while working for Biocon BioChemicals Ltd. in Ireland that she thought of forming her own company. Shaw founded Biocon (India) with a capital of Rs10,000 (about Dh860). Today Biocon Ltd. is recognised as India's pioneering biotech company. With Shaw as Chairman and Managing Director, the company grew into becoming India's largest biotechnology company, also making Shaw India's richest businesswoman.
Tulsi Tanti, Suzlon Energy
Better known as India's Windman, Tanti founded Suzlon Energy with his siblings in 1995 after his textile mills could not be operated due to escalating power costs. Today, Suzlon Energy is the largest wind energy company in Asia and Tanti has a personal stake of more than 27 per cent in the company. Suzlon has a global presence with operations in several continents. Tanti is one of those individuals who takes a simple idea and makes it huge. While India and the world stand to profit, Tanti has too, becoming a billionaire in his own right.
Shiv Nadar, Hindustan Computers Limited
Hindustan Computers Limited or HCL was founded 32 years ago by Nadar to make India's first computer, which he accomplished by 1982. Today, he is the CEO of HCL, India's largest infotech conglomerate with a global reach that includes 15 countries where it provides not only computer and office equipment but also software service solutions. At a time when India was targeted by the USA for taking away tech jobs, HCL provided jobs to Americans and many others. HCL invented the concept of 24-hour working by taking advantage of the global time zones of its offices.
Yusuffali M.A., EMKE Group
An immigrant from Kerala, he was one of the first UAE residents of Indian origin to make it big in the Middle East. Ali founded the EMKE Group 30 years ago in the UAE and today owns and operates a leading chain of retail stores across the Gulf that includes the Lulu chain. With headquarters in Abu Dhabi, Ali runs the largest Indian business conglomerate in the Middle East, employing around 19,000 people from 29 countries in three continents. Ali is diversifying and has ventured into software, shipping, garments manufacturing, etc. An astute businessman, it's not surprising he is referred to as the Man with the Midas Touch.