Forbes just released a list of the world’s richest folks. In the top 10 richest people in the world – there are 4 Indians – more representation than any other country in the world – America included. Laxshmi Mittal, Mukesh and Anil Ambani ( brothers, if their wealth were combined – would be almost twice as rich as Bill Gates and by far, the richest family on Earth), And then there is KP Singh of DLF at #8.
At one level, it makes me immensely proud – the number after all is a reflection on how well some businesses have done post-1991 liberalization period. Indians were always enterprising -and the experience of conducting business in a heavily regulated economy bode well when – metaphorically, the Indian Tiger was (relatively) unleashed. It was almost like losing those lead shoes when running a marathon. So no wonder Indian companies have done well. As a matter of fact, at 53, India now has the highest number of billionaires in Asia. Quite an achievement given 5 years ago, we had one.
But at another level, this just underscores the vast dichotomy that India still is. Stark poverty existing with immense wealth. Vast opportunity with grinding generational disadvantages. Yes, it is changing. But not fast enough for a billion ambitions.
While I am sure the world’s first trillionaire will be an Indian – probably one of the Ambanis – I dont see that trillionaire engaging in the level of social philanthropy that I see Warren Buffet and Bill Gates engaged in. I wrote about this a while ago – I scoured Arcelor-Mittal’s website for its social awareness – and while there was a mandatory presence of a page talking about “social responsibility” – it did no justice to an immensely wealthy family from an equally immense and poor nation.
I know its easy talk – each one of us has a personal responsibility.
But the new generational Indian billionaires certainly need to own up to theirs. For their sake. And for the country and the world they belong to.