Being born into more wealth than most people can imagine is quite enough, one may imagine. But being born into a legacy of entrepreneurial success does not make one’s identity. Or at least that is what the next generation of India’s billionaire heirs think. In a nation where businesses are handed down by one generation of a family to its next, where boards of most major business groups still look like family gatherings, here comes a new crop of independent thinkers who choose not to step into the roles they have been groomed for. India’s youngest billionaire heirs are increasingly choosing to start up business ventures of their own instead of merely joining the established businesses of their families. It could be a drive to make a name for themselves, it could be a pursuit of one’s own interest, or it may be a preparation to learn something new and different before donning the family mantle – whatever the reason, meet these young men and women who have not let the silver spoons they were born with define them.
Being the son of the founder-CEO of India’s largest telecom company is not necessarily an advantage, decided Kavin Mittal. One of the twin sons of Sunil Bharti Mittal, Kavin, decided that he did not want to join his father’s legacy but carve out a niche for himself. In 2012 Kavin launched Hike Messenger, a free messaging application that took most smartphone users by storm. With well over 35 million active users, Hike is one of the most popular applications in India.
The Birlas are one of the leaders in business and industry in India. When Ananya Birla, the daughter of Kumar Mangalam Birla and granddaughter of Aditya Vikram Birla started out to decide on her career path she denounced the safe option of joining the Birla Group and launched her own microfinance company – Svatantra Microfinance – focused on empowering women in rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Coming away with a seed capital of merely INR 5 crore from the Aditya Birla Group, the company has gained 44,919 active clients since 2012 and now handles a portfolio of INR 46.9 crores for its clients.
Rajvi Mariwala and Rishabh Mariwala
Marico founder Harsh Mariwala once declared that “Marico is not a lala shop” implying that his children would not be automatically entitled to take on leadership. Both his children, Rajvi Mariwala and Rishabh Mariwala, however, did join Marico Industries and prove their mettle. Both also took the exit route to pursue their own dreams instead of leading Marico. Rajvi went on into social research while Rishabh has set up his own start-up Soap Opera N More.
Parth Jindal, son of JSW Steel Chairman and Managing Director Sajjan Jindal, decided to marry passion with business. While he did not denounce the family business, he set up the group’s new arm JSW Sports and took over as its CEO. Pushing his passion for sports up many notches, Parth also found time to launch a venture capital fund of INR 100 crore that funds tech start-ups.
Let us also take a look at these young business executives who decided that their presence in the business enterprises established and run by their families were important. But not before they proved their worth in established organizations and companies outside. Not only did this help them learn the tricks of the trade but also used these opportunities to equip themselves with the right skills and experience required to step in.
Roshni Nadar Malhotra is the only child of Shiv Nadar, founder of the USD 6.3 billion HCL Group. When Roshni went on to arm herself with an undergraduate degree (major in Communications with a focus on TV, Radio, and Films) from Northwestern University in the US, she seemed set for a career very different from that of her father’s. She then went on to work with Sky News UK and CNN America as a news producer. By the time she turned 31, however, Roshni returned home to be inducted into HCL. She later went on to arm herself with an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management with a focus on Social Enterprise and Management & Strategy – just the right degree to help her in her active role in the Nadars’ philanthropic activities.
Rishad Premji’s journey to the board of Wipro was certainly not a straight one. Armed with a degree in economics from Wesleyan University (USA) and an MBA from Harvard Business School, Rishad started his career at Bain & Co. Here he gained much experience working across various industries before he moved to GE Capital in the US. Here also Rishad worked across businesses learning and gaining experience before he interviewed with Wipro for the position of a manager. Slowly working his way up, Rishad has been working as the Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Investor Relations & Corporate Affairs at Wipro since 2007.
Heir to steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s USD 11.2 billion business, Aditya Mittal, also chose to make his bones before being inducted into the family business. He attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the US and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Economics. Aditya chose to work with the renowned investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston’s mergers and acquisitions department. At the time he also involved himself in the workings of a number of charitable and philanthropic organizations in the UK. It is with this rich experience that Aditya chose to join Mittal’s merger and acquisition department, going on to head the group’s merger with Arcelor.
Kavin Mittal’s twin and Sunil Mittal’s son, Shravin Mittal currently works with Bharti Airtel International-Netherlands. Before joining the Bharti Airtel group which was founded by his father, however, Shravin went on to equip himself with an accounting and finance degree from the University of Bath in the UK. He then worked with a number of prestigious organizations including Merrill Lynch in New York (US), Ernst and Young in London (UK), and JP Morgan Cazenove in London as a technology, media, and communications analyst. Shravin certainly took his time proving his mettle in some of the most prestigious firms anywhere in the world before he decided to join his father’s business empire and work his way up to the company’s board.
Lavanya Nalli’s family name has been synonymous with fine Kanjeevaram silk and beautiful sarees for over 85 years now. She became the fifth generation to join the family business expanding the Nalli outlets considerably. The desire to learn and experience more than the silk business, however, led her to take up a stint with McKinsey and Co in the US after having armed herself with a business management degree from Harvard Business School. A few years later Lavanya rejoined the Nalli Group and is now a poster child for the modern woman.