The new tribe of Indian billionaires has its capital in London. Clive Aslet profiles 20 of these Bollygarchs who love nothing more than prime Kensington property and weekends in the country.
Lakshmi Mittal does not court publicity, but neither – being among the handful of richest people on the planet – can he escape it. Born into a business family from the Indian state of Rajasthan in 1950, he founded the Mittal Steel Company in 1976, and it’s now the largest steelmaker in the world. Mittal’s $28.7bn fortune makes him not only the richest man in the UK but in Europe. His London house in Kensington Palace Gardens is nothing short of a palace, setting a property record when it was bought for £70m in 2003.
There are four Hinduja brothers, two of them, Srichand and Gopichand, based in London. They moved here in 1979, to develop their father’s trading business. They are now the second richest Asians in Britain, after Lakshmi Mittal, with 25,000 people employed by the Hinduja Group round the world. Extremely retiring, they have given little away about their personal lives, beyond the contribution that they have made to the building of two Hindu temples in the south-east, not to mention the £1.5m that they contributed to the Millennium Dome. Their home is in Carlton House Terrace.
The son of a politician, 52-year-old Sunil Mittal began his business life, after Punjab University, as a bicycle parts dealer in New Delhi. His Bharti Group is now the largest mobile phone operator in India, with over 121m subscribers. He is also reorganising the way India shops through a joint venture with WalMart. The Times of India puts his net worth at $12bn.
Later this year, JP Morgan Cazenove are said to be floating the shipping, steel, oil and gas, and telecoms group, Essar Holdings, on the London stock market for over £5bn. With that in mind, Shashi and Ravi Ruia, recently bought a home in Mayfair. As Essar Chairman Shashi Ruia recently joked: “I am not just an MBA, but also an MBB (Marwari by birth).” Many successful Indians in business are either Marwaris, who originate from around Jodphur, or Parsis, a Zoroastrian community distantly descended from Persians. In 2007, the Ruias were listed for the first time as one of India’s ten richest families, with a net worth of $12bn.
Savitri Jindal is the richest woman in India, with a net worth of $12.2bn. A widow with nine children, she became non-executive chair of the Jindal Organisation on her late husband’s death in a helicopter crash in 2005. Om Prakash Jindal (known as O.P), the son of a farmer, started his career making buckets and pipes in an Indian village in the 1950s.
The call centre capital of the world is Gurgaon, with its earthquake-proof office buildings. That this should be so is due to K.P.Singh, whose DLF Universal Ltd is the largest real estate company on the planet. Born in 1931, Singh studied science, including aeronautical engineering in the UK, before being commissioned as an officer in Indian Army’s famous Deccan Horse and transforming DLF (Delhi Land and Finance) it into the colossus that it is today, building houses, apartments, offices towers, shopping malls, airports, hotels and cinemas across India. His fortune is estimated at $9bn. A keen golfer, he now leaves his son Rajiv and daughter Pia to run the business, allowing him to spend more time in his Grosvenor Square house.
This visionary private equity investor Cyrus Vandrevala started investing in technology businesses his 20s and now has global investments in a multiple of public and private companies ranging from Telecom, infrastructure, energy, real estate, food and cement. He has made his mark as a man of style in London having lived at Claridge’s for six months before buying a house in Holland Park with his heiress wife Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala for £20m. He has achieved billionaire status while maintaining a discreet social presence. Look out for him in Annabel’s.
Born in 1954, Anil Agarwal has a house in Mayfair. Like other of India’s billionaires, he likes the best and can afford it: “I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers,” he says. The son of a small businessman from Bihar, in eastern India, he founded the mining group Vendanta Resources in the 1980s; it is now active on four continents, with offices in London and operations in Zambia, Australia and India.
Like many of the Bollygarchs, Shapoor Mistry shuns any suggestion of limelight; however, an exception is made when this keen racing man leads home a winning horse that has been bred by him. It is one of the few occasions that he can unwind from his business duties. Shapoor’s London house is in Mayfair: Cyrus also, pursues his many business interests from a London base.
Online gambling has a mixed reputation, particularly in the United States where, in 2008, Anurag Dikshit caused a sensation by pleading guilty to charges of breaking the laws governing it; this cost him a £185m fine. Not one to revel in the trappings of wealth, he devotes most of his time to a Trust which funds projects to further medicine, education and the community in India, Gibraltar and the UK.
Kingfishers are usually seen in a flash of iridescent colour, and so it is with Vijay Mallya, whose property portfolio includes – as well as residences in California, New York, Monaco and all the main cities in India – a castle in Scotland, a country house in Berkshire and a London house. Catch him when you can.
As a boy growing up in India, Naresh Goyal, now in his early 60s, had to walk to school every day, because his parents could not afford a bicycle. Now he has triumphed in another area of transportation, as the owner of Jet Airways, India’s largest domestic airline. He established it in 1992, after an aviation career which began as public relations manager of Iraqui Airlines.
Convenience stores are stereotypically associated with businessmen from the subcontinent: beginning with one in Earl’s Court, Sir Anwar Pervez built up the cash-and-carry empire of Bestway, with 50 warehouses across the country. It now employs 4,500 people and is worth £230m.
Mike Jatania and his three brothers were among the Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1969. Their cosmetics company Lornamead acquires underperforming companies and product lines and revitalizes them; this, together with a property portfolio in London, has created a family fortune of £1bn.
Lord Paul, born in 1931, grew up in the Punjab, where his father had a small foundry making steel buckets, tubs, trunks and farm equipment. The family lived frugally, following the Hindu ideal of ‘simple living and high thinking’. He and his brother transformed the modest enterprise at home into an industrial group with interests in steel, engineering, pharmaceuticals, hotels, shipping and tea.
Felix Grovit is the man behind Chequepoint, the bureaux de change empire, founded in 1974. From London it spread out to other tourist hotspots in 70 countries across the world. Aged 65, he also has interesting in Berkeley Credit and biotechnology. Like others in the world of the Indian super rich, Mr Grovit is generally described as shy and elusive. The industry was astounded when he launched his own website www.felixgrovit.com, although at present there is nothing on it.
In 1979 Jasminder Singh is a hotelier, who formed the Edwardian Group with an uncle in 1979, which now has a dozen luxury hotels in the UK and runs Radisson Hotels (as Radisson Edwardian) under franchise. Of Punjabi descent, Mr Singh was born in Dar es Salaam in 1951. He came to the UK, qualifying as an accountant before entering the hotel business in 1975. He insists that his top people have studied at Oxford or Harvard. His holidays are of the busman type, sizing up the competition’s hotels. The rest of the time he lives quietly at Ascot with his wife and four children.
Vikrant Bhargava was the former marketing director of PartyGaming, having been a classmate of Anurag Dikshit (see above) when studying electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. From Delhi he obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from the Indian Institute of Management. At the gaming group he helped attract attention to the site by staging online poker tournament with a $1 million prize. He said that 70,000 people were playping Party Poker simultaneously at peak hours. However, Bhargava left PartyGaming in 2006 to devote himself to media and real estate businesses, as well as philanthropy.
Vijay and Bikhu Patel, who founded Waymade Healthcare, came, like many British Asians, via Kenya: from a poor background in the western highlands, they arrived in Britain with just £5 in the early 1970s. From a single chemist’s shop, they have built a business turning over £300m each year. They say that the desire to escape poverty gave a keen edge appetite for business.
Tom Singh, graduate of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, founded the fashion chain New Look in Weymouth 1969, borrowing £5000 with his wife Kuljit to open the first shop. Mr Singh still lives in Weymouth, even though the company now has over 1000 stores in different countries, including 543 in the UK.