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BW Businessworld

The Money Men Of India

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What makes baniyas as a business community tick? It is an interesting subject which the author Nikhil Inamdar explores by showcasing five personalities from this community who are behind Emami, Meru Cabs, Snapdeal, Hindware and Bansal Classes.

Rokda: How Baniyas Do Business  (Random House) states  that while baniyas are perceived negatively (think bloodsucking money lenders), there are several positives too. Such as their stomach for risk and high trust culture, the strong joint family and community support infrastructure and their penchant for keeping close tab on costs and spending conscientiously. For example, Neeraj Gupta of Meru was ahead of his times in recognising that travellers needed a clean and efficient service, which would be transparent with its fare charging. With VC funding, the idea really caught on and the fleet expanded. However, in its growth phase, it faced rebellion within the ranks, which crippled the service and caused damage to cars. Lessons have been learnt, ownership and management has been segregated and several new initiatives have been taken.
The company now has 8,000 cabs with over 1.8 million customers every day across six cities.
Equally inspiring is the tale of Bansal classes, which has put Kota on the map of engineering and IIT coaching. Hailing from a family of modest means, V.K. Bansal graduated with flying colours and life seemed rosy. However, muscular dystrophy struck him at a very young age and doctors gave him little chance of living beyond 40. Undaunted and though bound to a wheel chair, Bansal took up maths coaching  for aspiring engineering students and the rest, as they say, is history. Bansal faced several challenges along the way; lecturers were poached by competition and several other classes came up, some more successful. All is not lost; under Bansal’s guidance, his children are now aiming to grow the business and recover its lost glory.

The five tales in the book are told well and are great studies of opportunism, risk taking, resilience to tide over exceptionally tough times and adaptability to change with the changing business environment. On the reasoning and analytics of bania qualities which make them succeed, the book does not delve deep enough. An examination of their community psychology would have helped complete the picture.
Rajagopal is CEO, Consumerge Wealth Managers
(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 26-01-2015)