The Wealth Wallahs: A refreshing take on the story of the country’s new wealthy

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New Delhi | Published: March 5, 2017 3:13:56 AM

In The Wealth Wallahs, Shreyasi Singh talks about first-generation entrepreneurs who have made a mark for themselves in the world of business.

The Wealth Wallahs is broadly divided into two parts.

BIOGRAPHIES ARE quite common these days, with the author narrating the story of the protagonist. In The Wealth Wallahs, Shreyasi Singh talks about first-generation entrepreneurs who have made a mark for themselves in the world of business. These persons are in the age group of 40-60 years. By tracing their backgrounds and business lives, and based on their outlook, Singh has been able to draw some patterns, helping draw some generalisations. This is what makes it so refreshing, as the book is developed around a theme and the characters fit in unlike other books, where authors choose the character and then fill in the story. It makes a difference to the reader who is better able to appreciate the value created by these people.

The Wealth Wallahs is broadly divided into two parts, where the first focuses on how first-time rich people approach business, which is quite distinct and different from conventional and well-established business houses. This theme is developed quite well by the author, where perspectives are also provided on our attitude to wealth and the inequality that goes with it—this has become a big issue, especially after Thomas Piketty wrote his epic book focusing on the problem. The second part of the book is focused more on wealth management, with emphasis on a single company, IIFL Wealth, and the stalwarts there who have created value not just in terms of ‘company valuation’, but also in terms of clients.

An interesting point made by Singh is that first-generation entrepreneurs have a certain idealistic goal of creating ‘value’ rather than ‘money’—the examples of Raghav Bahl and the entire IIFL Wealth set-up point to this. Unlike the progeny of successful businessmen—the author doesn’t take names, but the indication is clear—this class of people is different in terms of lifestyle and approach to business. While they are wealthy, they are not ostentatious and this makes a huge difference. There is humility not just in speech, but also in living. Hence, having a good house in an upmarket locale isn’t flaunted. The values inculcated at home are also simple. Here, Singh draws a comparison with Chinese entrepreneurs who live an ostentatious life and love to show off.

The author also points out the views of these new-age entrepreneurs when it comes to philanthropy and this makes interesting reading. While all businessmen talk about it, this generation means it and does so silently.

A large part of the book is devoted to wealth managers and this is where IIFL Wealth takes over. There are lots of stories about several persons, where the names might not be too familiar to the reader, but make interesting reading nonetheless. Perfunctory remarks have been made about IIFL founders Nirmal Jain and R Venkatraman, the faces of the organisation. However, there are also several other wealth managers who are covered in this book. The strategies that have been adopted by them when approaching clients, as well as while deploying funds to maximise returns have been elaborated in the book.

There are several tips given on how to approach a client and do business. The trick is to balance aggression with restraint. While one should be client-centric, it should not come down to servility, says the author. There is, hence, considerable maturity required when dealing with clients.

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There are definitely some takeaways for entrepreneurs looking to get into this field, as the book provides a roadmap for them to pursue. It talks about values, which should not be lost and provides a clue on what not to do when running a business. Chasing value creation should be the goal, which results in wealth, but an untrammelled quest for wealth might have pitfalls in terms of compromise in principles, governance and value creation. These are some points that can be drawn from Singh’s work.

Madan Sabnavis is chief economist, CARE Ratings

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