India Today

Power Pyramid

Ambitious business barons, silent social crusaders, celestial celebrities. The 50 who derive their power from the wealth they create, the ideas they foster and the awe they inspire. Meet the conquerors of markets and minds, of imagination and innovation.

Power is most felt by those who don't have it. Accept it or suffer it, but there is no way you can ignore it. It is what denies the world the idyll of evenness. It is what separates a few from the familiarity of the rest. It is what magnifies a minority as arbiters. It is an aura, an attitude or an accessory. It is acquired or inherited. Still, all those who have it are not natural members of the power elite. There are any number of provincial factotums and bloated tycoons out there but who cares? The power elite-or the establishment-consists of those privileged men and women who achieve a perfect balance between ideas and influence, reach and resourcefulness, access and authority. Their actions make a difference in the life of others. They are the Force. They change with the times. The original members of the club were the ruling political class, the pinstriped plutocracy and the medalled military brass. Well, nothing rhymes as intimately with power as politics does. Today, wealth and knowledge, imagination and innovation, are rearranging the hierarchy of influence. The boldest and the smartest in the corporate world continue to be at the top of the heap, and the new combativeness in the marketplace will only ensure their durability as the new conquerors. INDIA TODAY Power List 2007 is a declaration of their ascent and assertion. Almost half of the list has been taken over by them. At a time when their extra-territorial heroism is a daily headline, we are hardly surprised. More noticeable is the power parade of Bollywood, where the Capital B doesn't mean Bachchan alone. A new generation defies the cliché with imagination and innovation. The media in India is not a story of stagnation, not yet, as our list shows. It is a story that is worth telling in newer broadsheets, on newer screens, and where only creativity can survive the competition. Like last year's list, this one too has practically no public intellectual, that argumentative Indian whose words are original-and redeeming. His absence makes the list-and India-poorer. Is it then a rich men's club by another name? With only seven women in the fray, and wealth being the most visible source of power, it is rather tempting to see it as all men and money. It is not, for it is more than a narrative of a few enterprising individuals who know only how to succeed. It is the story of an India that dares, reaches out, and refuses to give up. If India is the next big Asian event in the calendar of globalisation, here are the Forceful Few who have the mind and the means to be its brand managers. They are made possible by a country that celebrates dreamers and doers. The following pages are powered by the best of them.


Because the economy has been the big story of the last five years and no one tells it better than him. Because his mix of global ambition, impeccable ethics and diversity of business has made him a consistent role model. Because he had the grit to buy Corus Steel for $12 billion (Rs 54,000 crore), the largest Indian takeover of a foreign company, making Tata Steel the fifth largest producer of steel in the world. Because from infotech to steel, he has acquired companies across sectors to push the group turnover from Rs 96,700 crore to Rs 2,16,000 crore by April, when Corus becomes part of the Tata Group. Because he has made Tatas truly global with the share of international business income rising from 35 per cent to two-thirds. Because despite Mamata Banerjee's best efforts, the Rs-1 lakh car will be a reality by 2008. Because such is his aura that both Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which are pitching their respective F-16 and F-18 fighters to the Indian Air Force, wooed him to get into their cockpits at the recent Bangalore aero show. Because he has lived up to his famous surname.

Favourite Phrase: If you want to be a strong player you can't not be a global player.

Little Known Fact: He used to draw caricatures of directors at board meetings when J.R.D. Tata was the chairman of Tata Sons, and present it to them with his autograph.

He washed planes at a flying club at Cornell to pay for his flying lessons. Did his first solo flight on a Piper when he was 16.


Because he is the richest Indian. Because regardless of geography or domain, SEZs or retail, government policy always moves in tune with RIL priorities. Because he has taken the group turnover to Rs 1,25,000 crore, well above the pre-split level. Because he fuelled growth to drive the market capitalisation of RIL to over Rs 2,00,000 crore, the highest for any company in India. Because with products worth Rs 70,000 crore, he is India's single largest exporter. Because at Rs 12,000 crore a year, RIL nets a profit of Rs 1.3 crore every hour. Because he has lined up Rs 1,00,000 crore for expansion in refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, retail and SEZs. Because he is targeting a series of overseas acquisitions with a burgeoning war chest of $25 billion (Rs 1,12,500 crore). Because he is also eyeing stakes in US petroleum giant Chevron and global retail chain Carrefour.

The Big Idea: To acquire a global retail giant, use the network of shopfronts to export agricultural produce at global prices at foreign marts and deliver discounts to Indian consumers.

Favourite Phrase: Let us first do it and then talk about it.

Is Excited About: A bungalow being built at Tirumala-Tirupati, no doubt to make darshan easier.

New Wings: An Airbus corporate jet.

He spends all his spare time with his children, twins Akash and Isha, 15, and Anant, 12. He even helps them with their daily homework.


Because the world's second largest company, retail giant Wal-Mart, cold-shouldered overtures from the rest of the Indian business houses to partner with him. Because despite Sonia Gandhi's many letters to the Government on her reservations over the tie-up, Mittal is on target for a March-end roll-out. Because 10 years after the birth of the telecom revolution, his No.1 position has remained unchallenged. Because no foreign investor has ever lost a rupee with him. Because he sits on top of a market where the world's largest mobile service company valued 67 per cent of the fourth largest player, Hutch-Essar, at $17 billion (Rs 76,500 crore). Because in terms of profitability, Bharti is on par with the world's best and biggest.

The Road Ahead: As he turns 50 on October 23, he will cease to be a hands-on manager of any of Bharti's businesses.

Numbers Game: He likes the number 23. The 23rd Airtel number was issued to him.

Favourite Phrase: We've built a good platform, but the skyscraper is yet to be built.

Big Cool Buddy: L.N. Mittal. The day he signed the Arcelor deal in France, L.N. Mittal made it to a dinner he hosted in London for Union ministers Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal.

Loves: Dogs. He has two spaniels-a black one named Georgeo and a golden one named Romeo.

He has pledged, with his brothers, Rs 200 crore in the Bharti Foundation which will set up 1,000 village play schools over the next two years.


Because whether it is India Poised or Uttam Pradesh, the aids campaign or the polio vaccination drive, his is the face that launches a hundred causes. Because he is unscathed by the controversies that continuously surround him. Because he, his son and his daughter-in-law-to-be, are a force to reckon with. Because their endorsements sell products in 18 different categories. Because he straddles the divide between commercial hits and art house cinema. Because whether he is playing ageing Romeo in Nishabd or the evil Gabbar in Ram Gopal Varma ke Sholay, he is boldly going where no Indian actor of his age has gone before. Because from the French Government's highest civilian award to a Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Leicester, everyone wants to honour him. Because at 64, he is still the gold standard that every silver screen superstar wants to measure up to.

The Road Ahead: Will be going on a world tour for the first time after 1991, after which he will work with two of India's finest NRI filmmakers, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta.

The Big Acquisition: Apart from Aishwarya Rai, the best ad filmmakers of the country, from R. Balki to Prasoon Pandey, who want to turn film directors only with him.

The Big Discovery: That he can court the media with alarming frequency when he wants to.

The Big Move: To a new office-cum-den in Janak, a building right behind his home, Jalsa. Aroma-therapy candles, masks and Feng-shui plants make for a very Aks-like personal space.

He wears only tasselled black loafers, eats only vegetarian food and obsessively surfs television channels.


Because he represents the next generation of business leaders and has grown his historic legacy to world-winning proportions. Because his self-effacing style and reputation for clean business has seen his group become the fourth largest in India. Because this year, as the corporate slogan says, he took the Aditya Birla Group to the world with a $6 billion (Rs 27,000 crore) deal with Canadian aluminium maker Novelis, propelling the conglomerate into the 292nd position in the elite Fortune 500 club and doubling its revenues to $22 billion (Rs 99,000 crore). Because it also makes Hindalco the fourth largest company in the country. Because the acquisition of Minacs, a BPO firm in Canada, made it the number three BPO company in India and No. 1 in North America. Because not only did he strengthen his hold on Idea Cellular by buying out Tata's 48.14 per cent stake, but he also got it listed on the NSE. Because as a member of the RBI's Board of Directors, he can see the big picture.

The Road Ahead: Retail. The battle has begun with the Rs 350-crore buyout of the Trinethra Group, which has a chain of 172 retail outlets across four southern states.

The Big Move: Out of his flat in Malabar Hill into a bungalow at Altamount Road, which is dotted with six Satish Gujral paintings.

The Learning Curve: That it is critical to show sensitivity to the employees of the company that is being acquired.

He never misses the PTA meets of his three children and attends the chess tournaments of his daughter, 12-year-old Ananyashree.


Because spurred by sibling rivalry and an appetite for acquisitions, he has made the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group one of the top three business groups in the country. Because the third richest person in the country, worth $18.2 billion (Rs 81,900 crore) has upped his group market capitalisation to $26 billion (Rs 1,17,000 crore), group assets to $9 billion (Rs 40,500 crore) and group net worth to $7 billion (Rs 31,500 crore), all at zero debt. Because the market capitalisation of Reliance Communications has jumped to Rs 1,00,000 crore within a year of listing. Because it has a 40 per cent market share of international long-distance traffic. Because with investments in fast-growing media companies, he is set to be the czar of infotainment. Because Reliance Mutual Fund is the country's largest, managing assets worth $9.9 billion (Rs 44,600 crore). Because he is the largest private power distributor in India. Because the kid has finally grown up.

Win Some, Lose Some: Though he failed in his bid to modernise Delhi airport, he won the Mumbai Metro project.

Latest Acquisition: Asics Evolution II running shoes.

Style Statement: Has changed. Sober colours and Etro suits.

Weekend Reading: Balance sheets and quarterly reports of Airtel, Singtel and Vodafone.

Is Particular About: Not consuming dairy products.

He is a big fan of Céline Dion and even attended her concert in the US. Listens to her when he is not busy tuning into his own FM station.


Because he continues to drive an unglamorous sector into top gear. Because he has taken the group turnover from Rs 13,600 crore to Rs 18,000 crore within one superfast year. Because he has increased group market capitalisation from Rs 19,000 crore to Rs 47,600 crore. Because he has, through a series of new plants and acquisitions, made Mahindra the largest tractor player in India, with every second tractor sold in India sporting the company logo. Because his takeovers in Europe have catapulted Mahindras into the top five forging companies in the continent. Because with a unique three-way tie-up, he brought both Renault and Nissan on a common platform to deliver the largest automotive investment in India, which will produce four lakh cars to start with. Because he has taken Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Finance public. Because Mahindras have three SEZs in Chennai, Jaipur and Pune spread across 7,000 acres, besides a biotech park in Thane. Because his next big move is a rural initiative under Shubh Labh, which will fund everything from seeds to tractors, from homes to Scorpios. Because he is India Inc.'s unofficial brand ambassador.

The Big Discovery: Acquisitions are one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.

The Next Big Thing: M&M's design arm Mahindra Flexion has tied up with National Aeronautics to design a commercial executive jet.

The Big Acquisition: Punjab Tractors, making Mahindras India's biggest tractor makers.

Global Applause: He won the CNBC Asia Business Leader of the Year award for 2006.

Favourite Phrase: It is hard not to grow when the momentum is so good.

He was a Communist sympathiser during his two years at Mumbai's JJ School of Architecture. This was before he went to Harvard.


Because he has become the poster boy of Indian it, representing India on the 20-member board of the World Economic Forum, and becoming the only Indian to be named businessman of the year by both Forbes and Fortune. Because he is in demand on government committees and global thinktanks, from the prime minister's review panel for the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission to Aspen Institute's Business and Society Advisory Board and the National Advisory Group on e-Governance. Because he also finds time to run the it giant, whose annual income is expected to cross $3 billion (Rs 13,500 crore) this year.

The Road Ahead: Wants to make India a stronger global brand, taking the Davos campaign to Cannes and New York this year, and build up the relatively new consultancy business.

The Big Acquisition: The Sony Reader, on which books can be bought or downloaded from the Net, just like an iPod for music.

The Big Loss: He misses the time he used to spend with his 18-year-old daughter Janhavi, who is headed for Yale.

Should Be Embarrassed About: Fading early at parties. His bedtime: 10.30 p.m.

He reads fantasy novels such as those by Terry Pratchett, to keep a tab on what his 17-year-old son Nihar is addicted to.


Because they continue to reinvent the newspaper business. Because after launching Medianet to sell editorial space, they are entering into private partnership treaties, investing in companies in lieu of advertising space. Because The Times of India, with 7.4 million readers, is the No.1 English newspaper in the country, leading The Hindu by over 3 million. Because even as it staved off challenge from DNA and The Hindustan Times in Mumbai, sister publication The Economic Times appeared unperturbed by Mint's arrival in Delhi. Because Times Now is beginning to make viewers feel the news and they have fm licences in 33 cities-10 of which are operational.

Relative Values: Persuaded by wife Mira and daughter Trishala to become more socially prominent, Samir now hosts get-togethers at their home, Sujagi.

Management Styles: While Samir propounds the big ideas, Vineet focuses on fine print.

The Next Big Move: Trishala, now at Stanford, is to be inducted into the newspaper next year while Indu Jain would like to see son Vineet getting married again.

All columnists in The Times of India have been instructed to use the small 'i' when referring to themselves in print.


Because in a comeback year, he has challenged Star Plus' seven-year-long supremacy. Because he has retained the No. 2 spot in the Hindi general entertainment channel firmament with a 12 per cent share of a cut-throat market. Because Essel Group is on an acquisition spree, picking up a 50 per cent stake in Dubai-based Taj Television, which runs Ten Sports, and a 60 per cent stake in news agency UNI. Because he emerged as the spokes-man for the powerful interest forum, the Indian Media Group. Because the man who once chaired an RSS meet is equally at home with Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Road Ahead: Restructuring Zee Television into three companies, to be listed separately.

The Big Acquisition: The first dome of an ambitious global pagoda at Essel World.

One Thing He Would Have Liked to Do: Spend more time with his mother, who passed away last year.

Must-do: Spends a month travelling to tribal areas to review the development work he supports.

He likes to cook for himself when he is travelling abroad. He can make a mean dal. He also practises Vipassana at least once a year.

Special Issue: The High & Mighty - The Power List 2004

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