Indian Billionaires & need of the hour…


Ratan Tata, the scion and one of the most successful and worthy chairmen of Tata Group was in the news again. This time it was not his calls to Niira Radia or his letter to A Raja but it was his comment on the extravagant lifestyle of Mukesh Ambani, his 27 floors of residence, Antilla, his private airliner and so on.

The precise comment was

“It’s sad Mukesh lives in such opulence ……India needs people to allocate some of their enormous wealth to finding ways of mitigating the hardship that people have”.

That got me thinking and soon I was in deep web of frustration that gave me a headache just because of all the questions and no answers. How much is too much? With personal wealth in billions of dollars what have these businessmen given back to their own country which has made them billionaires? Best business practices probably!

Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet donated almost half of their wealth to charity how much has Mukesh Ambani donated? Or how much has Ratan Tata himself Donated? The two biggest business houses in India have been acquiring companies, expanding business, multiplying the wealth. To sum it up they have grown multifold in last two decades since Indian economy has been liberated. The very obvious answer is number of jobs they opened up but will they have created organizations without giving out jobs? I guess plenty of jobs are only the by-product.

I am not against their lifestyle. They have all the right to spend money whichever way they wish, after all they have earned it. But the recent case of 2G scam hurts me as an Indian. How easy it is for people with lots of money to influence the whole system. There have been accusations, trials and even detention, but has it changed the way business works? How many organizations that were awarded telecom licenses have retained those? Most of the companies are either sitting pretty with the licenses or have sold majority stake to a multinational.

Himachal Futuristic (HFCL) that sold its license to Bharti, is almost non-existent today whereas Airtel is India’s biggest Telecom operator. Wrong example probably but where is the Telecom regulatory authority of India, what’s the role they have played? Don’t we need to change the rules for the betterment of our country? When we have examples why can’t we make case studies out of it?

I think, I digressed from the topic but more than giving back to nation isn’t it about what we do, we do it ethically and yes keep in mind the common good for all the people. Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Kumar Manglam Birla, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Shiv Nadar, Azim Premzi, Vijay Mallaya, Narayan Murthy and all the honchos need not give a penny back to India or Indians. What they need is to ensure that the best business practices are implemented ethically across all deals that take place. If corporate lobby acts ethically and responsibly we would not be deploying resources to locate the Swiss bank funds for billions of dollars.

Isn’t it a very small thing to give back to your country?

[This post has been written & contributed by our regular reader Prashant Mishra]

  1. Colonel A R Panwar, Retd says

    May I say that why rich should look towards poor

    The society is the combination of two ie. rich and poor and either can not move an inch without the contribution of either in exchange of their power what they have. The poor works for the rich whereas the rich contribute for the welfare of the poor. The such exchange in reality, truthfully, honestly and sincerely by the rich reduces the marginal number of poor and added to otherside or near to otherside because the rich people has encouraged the poor to come up in the society as all the to-days billionairs of India were not rich as they are to-day and they have certainly came up due to the help of some rich minded or monied people and few poors who worked hard physicaly for them.

    Therefore, they owe towards the same society to make the way for poor by helping them to come up in the interest of humanity, man-kind and nation. After all the rich people have in one way or another, taken the others share to promot their richnesas may be in the form of govt help or tax exemptions/resources or reduced lablour cost, that is to be justified by them but sparing their reasonable earnig for poor will always ease them mentaly, emotionaly and spritualy, whether they recognise or nor is their look out.

  2. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Hmmm… a lot has already been said. A few points from me…

    Charity can be done in many forms- donating millions to Red cross or handing a Rs.5 note to a beggar on the street. A housewife giving away left over dinner to the poor or a teacher who teaches for free to students of low income families.

    As some have rightly pointed out, the big names in business have helped the country by putting us on the global map thru expanding their business empires. Like it or not, we are respected and have jobs because Indians are seen as smart and also from a fast emerging country. People from other developing countries don’t have similar opportunities.

    Having said the above, corruption is not justified to achieve riches or build business empires… means does not justify the ends! You could be a tata or a birla or an ambani. But if your name is tainted you will for ever be the villian in the minds of the commoner. Remember the old adage ” When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, everything is lost”.

  3. vidya says

    good points…would our laws change to tackle corporation corruption?

  4. Prashant Mishra says

    This is such a topic that creates two minds not only for people who are born rich but also people who have grown to be rich. In other words, My intention was not to write about if Mr.Tata has done anything wrong or Mr.Ambani has, its just that whatever successful businessmen of India do, should be ethical. Manipulation of system to add more to wealth is a bigger crime than manipulating system to create wealth and strictly in my opinion. This article is only about manipulation of system.

  5. Altaf Rahman says

    Giving back to society !!

    Let me give a case point.

    Consider a person A. He was a nobody (for that matter he can be anybody, poor, middle class or rich) During his time he increased his wealth. But he never liked to handout alms to beggers. But during his time he created a business empire which created lots of jobs.

    Consider a person B. He was born rich. During his time he was so moved by the poor and as Yash mentioned started distributing 1000 rupee notes at railway stations till he ran out of all the wealth his baap dada created.

    Now tell me who do you think is a better person “giving back to society”? In my view as far as possible we should try to help some one in such a way that he can support his family. How long you can keep giving 1000 rupee notes? Also you can not keep giving 1000 rupees to same person. You give daily to different people. Then the person who recieved 1000 from you can not gain the next day. So how your donation will help him? He will spend the 1000 and tomorrow again will be begging.

    My point is Tata has no right to say Ambani living in a 27 floor house and not donating 1000 rupee notes to beggers. Ambanis have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Those employees should be thanking Ambanis. Without Ambanis those guys might be begging.

    In my view those first generation enterprenuers have already done enough to society by way of :
    1) Creating jobs and helping society in reducing unemployment.
    2) The enterprise by way of taxes pays to the government which in turn uses that money for bettering lives of people.
    3) Those enterprises export (bringing in hard currency) and import substitution (saving hard currency)

    If Bill Gates has gone overboard and donated all his wealth, good. But nobody should advise anyone what they should do with their wealth. (I dont mean the author is saying that. He raised a good topic so I am expressing my views. Thats all)

    What I feel is that media has misquoted Tata. What Tata meant to say (my guess) was that while Ambani is living in a 27 floor house, he can see slums in the far reaches and how he can sleep peacefully? He might not have meant to tell Ambani to donate 1000 rupees standing at railway stations :)

    Just my two paisa :)

  6. Pradeep says

    Very well written. liked the post and very much agree with you.

  7. balaji yadhav says

    Mr Tata actually seems to be more interested in donating to foreign universities rather than Indian to Indians,how is it giving back to Indians Mr Tata???. He is sitting in a GLASS HOUSE and has no right to throw stones.By the way Mr Tata has already withdrawn his comments checkout TOI he has backtracked on the absurdity of his own comments.Indians CAN LIVE IN OPULENCE provided they spend it on Indians .Consumerism creates more jobs in India than any so called employment guarantee scheme of the Govt. Consumerism is good for India and thats the truth.

  8. Sriram Vadlamani says

    It’s a chicken and egg problem. At least in India. If all the business houses go by the ethical practices which we want them to, then there will no billions and 27 floor houses with a helipad.

    If they get rich and build wealth, then at some point we have to question the practices that went on in building that kind of wealth. That’s what we are doing right now with the 2G scam.

    If I can emphasize, this is a chicken and egg problem.

  9. Yash says


    Why should rich people be expected to help the poor? If they want to donate, they will donate. And all of them do. Who are I and you to advice them on how much to donate? Bill Gates and Warren Buffet donated their entire wealth? Very kind of them. But why should everyone follow in their footsteps?

    Indians have been donating since ages. And “Gupt daan” has been the mantra. So Indians donate but don’t blow their trumpet, look I donated x amount. So we never know how much are the rich actually doing for the country.

    And frankly why do we expect the rich only to do something for the country? Do people always need a helping hand to get out out their miserable lives?

    People have to help themselves! Why would someone expect some Tata, Birla, Ambani or Murthy to come and help them?

    All the names you mentioned – “Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Kumar Manglam Birla, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Shiv Nadar, Azim Premzi, Vijay Mallaya, Narayan Murthy” they or their forefathers were once nobody. They became somebody by their sheer determination, intelligence and hard work. What is preventing the rest of the population to be like them?

    Rich are doing all they can. What else do you expect them to do? Stand on a railway station and distribute 1000 Rs. notes to passers-by?

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Hey Yash,

      the point is infact the same….author is not mentioning that rich people should donate…infact, it is their choice…and there is nothing wrong if they dont…but the point is ” What they need is to ensure that the best business practices are implemented ethically across all deals that take place.”

      1. Yash says

        Humm then I misread the article. But its not clear from the article what exactly he wants to say. He discussed quite a few things over there. I also didn’t understand why Himachal Futuristic was mentioned.

        1. Arun Prabhudesai says

          So what I assume is he is giving example of how the biggies with their money and power manipulate the system…Bharti did not have license, but they bought it from HFCL who had initially bought it… That’s my assumption..

      2. Yash says

        Ok I re-read the article.

        “With personal wealth in billions of dollars what have these businessmen given back to their own country which has made them billionaires?”

        So it looks like he is attacking them for not giving back enough.

        “…and all the honchos need not give a penny back to India or Indians. What they need is to ….”

        And that’s different.

        So I concluded otherwise.

        Good article Prashant, but it needs some more clarity of thought. People may confuse on which side of the fence you are :)

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