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APRIL 22, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  April 8, 2007

India Inc's New Billionaires
They aren't household names-not yet-but armed with immensely scalable business models, and buoyed by a rosy macro-picture, a clutch of new promoters on the block has struck it rich in double-quick time. Will they get richer?

It's been a busy year in the fortune-hunting business. Strong equity markets combined with rising real estate values and commodity prices pushed up fortunes from Mumbai to Madrid…

That's how a special report on the world's Billionaires in Forbes begins. The magazine's got it right, what with 36 Indian billionaires featured in the list of 946. Turn the spotlight on India (and think in rupees), and you'd discover there's a billionaire tucked away in every nook and cranny of Dalal Street. Well, almost. With the primary market on fire in 2005-06, the list of promoters whose personal wealth has crossed a billion smackers-or Rs 100 crore-is long. A few have gone on to pierce the Rs 1,000-crore barrier (the market wealth of the billionaires featured in BT is in the Rs 800-1,750 crore range, although the figures keep changing along with share price movements). (All the six promoters featured have raised money from the primary markets over the last 16 months.)

The caveats: The floating stock of many of these companies is low. Also, two billionaires are real estate developers, a volatile industry. Like many billionaires in the past, there's little guarantee of these new Richie Riches riding the long haul. BT believes the journey till the present and the possibilities that lie ahead deserve to be chronicled. Here are those men and their magnificent stories:

Shashi Kiran Shetty 49
Chairman & Managing Director/ All Cargo Global Logistics Ltd
Rs 1,638 crore


Stock Performance: Market price of Rs 1,060 per share; a 57 per cent appreciation in nine months since public offering at Rs 675 per share
Financials: Turnover of Rs 272 crore and net profit of Rs 49 crore in 2005-06
Industry: Cargo & Logistics
Upside: Growing share of high margin container freight business and acquisition of Belgium-based Ecu Line will de-risk the company's business
Risk factor: Low entry barriers in MTO business, hence competition to intensify and any decline in country's exports and imports will affect the company's future

Shashi Kiran Shetty landed in Mumbai from his native place Mangalore with a degree in commerce and a dream to make it big. The year was 1978 and he was just 21. The first four years were tough. Working in the operations and marketing department of Intermodal Transport and Trading Systems, a logistics company, Shetty learnt the nuances of the cargo business. Subsequently, he shifted to Tata Group company Forbes Gokak. "While working, I saw lot of opportunities in cargo," says Shetty who, by that time, had a strong pool of existing relationships with clients. Those relationships proved handy when Shetty, at 25, set up Transindia Freight Services, a transportation company catering to shipping liners. He started with a seed capital of Rs 25,000 of hard-earned savings. Operating from a small rented office near Mumbai's VT Station with four people, Shetty started handling cargo at the Mumbai Port. He later expanded to cover cargo of projects in the power and oil and gas sectors. Shetty later incorporated a new company, All Cargo Global Logistics, as a clearing and forwarding (C&F) agent of Asia Lines, a Mauritian shipping line. Shetty was clearly on his way when he obtained an mto licence (multimodal transport operator) and formed an alliance with the Belgium-based Ecu Line NV to be its agent in India. After a decade-long association, Shetty eventually acquired Ecu in 2005, which provided him access to the Belgian company's 110 offices in 56 countries (in India, All Cargo has a pan-India presence across 26 locations through branches and franchises). Over the past one year, Shetty has cleaned up the balance sheet of Ecu Line by hiving off its non-core operations and bringing in a new management. Post-acquisition, All Cargo Global has grown from a Rs 272 crore firm into a Rs 1,500-crore company (in 2006-07). "We now expect to grow by 20-22 per cent on a larger base," says Shetty, who spends time with his wife and two kids when he isn't living out of his suitcase-Shetty travels roughly 10 days a month.

Last fortnight, Shetty's market wealth, by virtue of his 75 per cent holding in All Cargo, stood at Rs 1,638 crore. It's not just that figure that makes Shetty proud. "We are a company with low capital and high returns. Our return on investment is higher than that of the industry," beams the golf enthusiast whose vision is to make All Cargo a truly international company. Perhaps, he'll be a dollar billionaire by then!

Shantanu Prakash 41
Managing Director/ Educomp Solutions Ltd
Rs 984 crore


Stock Performance: Price of Rs 951 per share, an appreciation of 660 per cent since 14 months of getting listed; offer price was Rs 125
Financials: Turnover of Rs 54 crore and net profit of Rs 14 crore in 2005-06
Industry: Education
Upside: Large untapped e-education market and the rising government spending on education offers tremendous scope for upside
Risk factor: The company may face stiff competition in the US market, which is highly competitive. The internet penetration and computer awareness is still very low, while mobile is set to revolutionise the market

After graduating from IIM Ahmedabad in the late eighties, Shantanu Prakash had a very good reason for turning entrepreneur: Pay-packets weren't seductive enough on the eight-hour shift in the private sector. "These days, it's a different story of course," grins Prakash. The low salaries on offer prompted Prakash to team up with a few friends in a quasi-entrepreneurial education venture once out of campus in 1988. "That's when the initial grooming happened and I learnt the business nuances," recollects Prakash. Some eight years later, Prakash formed his own company, Educomp Solutions Ltd, to set up computer labs in private and government schools.

The big challenge, though, was mobilising capital as banks insisted on collateral, which Prakash didn't have. "I used to take finances from nbfcs (non-banking finance companies) that used to charge a hefty interest rate," he shrugs. But Prakash was clear that computer education was poised for a boom. Starting from a 600 square feet basement office in Delhi's Kalkaji, near Nehru Place, Prakash gradually expanded his business. By 1998, he had launched an e-campus, and the dot-com boom at the turn of the century swayed Prakash into launching an educational portal, The website sank without a trace as the internet bubble burst. "The portal was a little ahead of its time," says Prakash, who moved on to other businesses in the education space. "The inflection point came when Educomp entered into digital content production and professional development of teachers," adds Prakash. Educomp, which has hit annual growth rates of over 100 per cent, today commands a near-monopoly in this segment. Attracting capital wasn't a huge problem anymore, what with the likes of us buyout fund Carlyle picking up a 15 per cent stake in Educomp for Rs 11.25 crore. Prakash saw a big opportunity in the US for tutoring mathematics over the net. In January 2005, he started Mentoraide, with Indian mathematics teachers instructing us students online. "It hardly matters whether I'm a millionaire or a billionaire," shrugs Prakash. "The stock market has given us currency and visibility."

Shashikant Patel 60
CMD/ Plethico Pharmaceuticals
Rs 972 crore


Stock Performance: Current market price of Rs 328 per share, which is an appreciation of close to 10 per cent since the public offering of Rs 300 per share 11 months ago
Financials: Turnover of Rs 378 crore and net profit of Rs 88 crore for the year ended September 2006
Industry: Pharmaceuticals
Upside: Foray into herbal products can bring big bucks and lucrative exports market
Risk factor: Single product 'Travisil' contributes significantly to revenues, close to 15 per cent

He's the oldest-or should we say the most experienced-billionaire on this list, having begun his entrepreneurial sojourn when the likes of Shantanu Prakash of Educomp weren't even born. Shashikant Patel, a science graduate, along with elder brother Bhaskar, launched Plazma Laboratories as a small formulations maker way back in 1963. In 1978, the duo flagged off Ethico Drugs & Chemicals Manufacturing to produce branded generic antibiotics. Plethico Pharmaceuticals was launched in 1985 to focus on marketing and distributing drugs in the ethical and prescription segments. In the early '90s, the company was converted into a public limited company.

But it was some 10 years ago when Patel bit the bullet. Rather than being just another pharma player in the allopathic area, he decided to focus on the herbal market. The gambit clearly was an attempt to move out of the ambit of the product patent regime, which makes it difficult for companies to re-engineer existing molecules. It appears to be working well so far, with a little over half of Plethico's revenues of Rs 330 crore in 2005-06 coming from the herbal portfolio. "It was a strategic shift and a much safer bet," avers Patel, Chairman & Managing Director, Plethico.

Patel today gets by with a little help from his son and daughter. Son Chirag, who came on board in 1996, is the Chief Executive Officer of Plethico. Chirag was instrumental in initiating exports to Russia, Africa and Eastern Europe soon after joining the business. Daughter Gauravi, who joined in 2000, looks after regulatory affairs and new product development. Patel has a vision to make the company a global healthcare conglomerate by 2010, focussing on herbals and nutraceuticals. His aim is also to make Plethico a Rs 1,000-crore company by 2010. "Shashikant bhai believes in decentralising operations and delegating decision-making powers to the team below," says Sanjay Pai, CFO, Plethico. That team can take some credit for the billionaire's riches.

Bhadresh Shah 54
Managing Director/ AIA Engineering Ltd
Rs 1,467 crore


Stock Performance: Price of Rs 1, 200 per share, a 272 per cent appreciation from offer price of Rs 315 per share in just 15 months of listing
Financials: Turnover of Rs 308 crore and net profit of Rs 37 crore in 2005-06
Industry: Alloy Steel and Iron Casting
Upside: User industry cement, mining and power are on an upswing. High export turnover at 30% is a growth driver
Risk factor: Large dependence on cement industry. Shortage and price escalation in raw material could adversely affect the company

His billions may be mint-fresh, but that doesn't mean Bhadresh Shah (54) himself is a tenderfoot in the business world. A metallurgical engineer from IIT Kanpur, Shah started making small alloy castings in Gujarat way back in 1976. Two years later, he founded Ahmedabad Induction Alloys Pvt Ltd to produce steel, alloy steel and alloy iron castings used in the cement, utility and mining industries. A first-generation entrepreneur, Shah realised that an overseas alliance would be the best way to gain know-how. He first collaborated with Magotteaux of Belgium in 1991, which set up Magotteaux India Pvt Ltd, a joint venture, which was subsequently merged into Ahmedabad Induction Alloys. The idea was to specialise in high-chrome, which is used in crushing and grinding operations in industries like cement, mining and quarrying. The idea was right but the partner wasn't. Magotteaux decided to exit India in 2001, but by then Shah had already roped in South Western Corporation (SWC) of the us in 2000 as technical collaborator. By May 2001, he changed the company's name to AIA Engineering. Today, Shah has a wide range of blue-chip clients from the cement sector that include acc, Gujarat Ambuja, Aditya Birla Group's Ultratech, Holcim and Lafarge. Like many other Indian industrialists, Shah, too, is looking at creating an international footprint; he's looking for opportunities to acquire global mines and power utility in markets like North and South America and South East Asia. His competition today is distinctly global with AIA Engineering pitted against the likes of Toyo of Japan, Christian of Italy and Shah's former ally, Magotteaux. Yet, Shah doesn't appear to be doing too badly for himself, what with close to 40 per cent of AIA's sales coming through exports. The next step is, of course, to create a base in an overseas geography that's closer to AIA's target markets.

Shah is notoriously media shy and preferred to avoid cooperating with Business Today for this feature. Now, could that be one of the many secrets of his success?

P.N.C. Menon 58
Chairman & Managing Director/Sobha Developers Ltd
Rs 1,733 crore


Stock Performance: Quoting at Rs 803 per share, 25 per cent appreciation as against the offer price of Rs 640 per share three months ago
Financials: Turnover of Rs 628 crore and net profit of Rs 89 crore in 2005-06
Industry: Real estate development
Upside: Promoters with global experience. Plan to enter into development of SEZ, malls, multiplexes and retail business
Risk factor: Real estate valuations are at abnormally high level. The company's business has high concentration in Bangalore and southern areas

Menon's wife Sobha Menon, also a promoter, has market wealth of Rs 3,320 crore

Most entrepreneurs take along with them through the years something they cherish, and which eventually assumes sentimental significance. In the case of P.N.C. Menon, it's a table he bought 30 years ago when he embarked on his entrepreneurial journey in Oman. Even today, he works (and even eats) over that same table.

Menon's first job was in a photo studio, where he earned 400 Omani riyals a month, equivalent to $1,000 those days. But by 24, Menon, a university dropout, had had enough of dark rooms and photofinishing. He turned interior decorator, a bold move considering Indians in West Asia were known more for their unskilled and semi-skilled prowess than for precision jobs. A move into the construction business would appear a giant step for most mortals. Not for an ambitious Menon, however, whose company, Services & Trade Company, in quick time emerged as one of Oman's leading developers.

By the mid-nineties, however, India beckoned. He floated Sobha Developers in 1995 (named after his wife, who is also a director on the board of the company), and made Bangalore its headquarters. "The shift to India was made to de-risk the business," says Menon. Today, the 12-year-old Indian operations are four times the size of the portfolio in the Gulf. Looking back, Menon says India became a huge dot on his radar when he saw shoddy construction work in India (vis-a-vis in Oman). "I even brought in some 100 workers initially from the Gulf to work on my first Indian project," says Menon, who launched his first residential project, 'Oman Topaz' in Bangalore.

Today, big corporates like Infoys, Timken and RMX Group are his clients. A citizen of Oman, Menon keeps shuttling between India and Gulf not just to look after his business interests in both countries, but to also be with his family, which has made Oman its home. "Our strength lies in our delivery capability as we don't sub-contract any job," says Menon, who believes being a billionaire on Dalal Street is a matter of pride, but one shouldn't get too carried away by the wealth created.

He's aware of his social responsibility, although he doesn't believe charity is the way to go about it. "I hate the word charity," points out Menon, who's adopted two villages with a combined population of 80,000 in Kerala, where he focusses on education, health, water and related issues. Given such a bent of mind, perhaps it's only a matter of time before projects for rural housing make their way onto his drawing board.

B.L. Kashyap & Brothers
Vinod Kashyap /53/ Executive Chairman (left)
Vineet Kashyap /51/
Managing Director (right)
Vikram Kashyap /44/
Joint Managing Director (centre
Rs 837 crore


Stock Performance: Price of Rs 1,152 per share, a 68 per cent appreciation since offer of Rs 685 per share a year ago
Financials: Turnover of Rs 468.80 crore and net profit of Rs 28 crore in 2005-06
Industry: Real estate development
Upside: Established client base like IBM, Microsoft Oberoi and Hyatt Hotel. Aspiring to become a complete building solutions company
Risk factor: Valuations in the construction business are abnormally high. The company's new business line, furnishing & fitting, is yet to achieve scale

The value of his company on the stock markets is a few thousand crore today, but the irony is that Vinod Kashyap had to sell the few shares he owned as an investor-the shares of Escorts he had bought during his college days with his pocket money -to fund his ambitions. "I put the entire sale proceeds of some Rs 65,000 into a new partnership business," reminisces the eldest of three siblings, who at one time was keen to become a doctor but changed his mind to study arts at the Delhi University's Hindu College.

Being the son of a construction magnate has its benefits, and Kashyap after graduating, duly went on to join his father's firm in 1973. He started at the ladder's lower end. "I worked as a trainee for five years," says Kashyap, whose initial job profile was to visit construction sites and oversee development work. In the next few years, Kashyap learnt a lot, including one vital lesson: Quality and on-time delivery matter most in an industry that was unorganised and unprofessional (it still is largely that way).

By 1977, Kashyap was ready to take a crack at emerging out of his father's long shadow. Along with his two younger brothers, Vineet and Vikram, he floated B.L. Kashyap & Company. Over the next 12 years that company plodded along and, by 1989, it was doing a decent, if unspectacular, turnover of a little under Rs 25 crore. Things changed once the partnership firm was converted into a public limited outfit. The work remained the same, only the scale got larger. And the tempo got faster. "SmithKline's factory at Sonepat in Haryana was a project close to my heart; it was completed in just 18 months," beams Kashyap, the Executive Chairman of the company. The three brothers together hold 70 per cent of its shares, with 30 per cent being offloaded to investors in February 2006. Whilst the Chairman oversees operations, Vineet handles marketing and Vikram nurtures the new businesses like home furnishing and interiors.

Doubtless, B.L. Kashyap's biggest growth phase has been over the past five years, with revenues spurting at a cumulative annual rate of 80 per cent over this period. Kashyap's vision is to make B.L. Kashyap the biggest construction company in India. "The potential to grow manifold is huge," he points out. The over-exuberance in this sector notwithstanding, it's difficult to disagree with him.

All wealth figures are based on March 30, 2007, closing on the NSE

Simple Living, Strategic Thinking
No private jets, no lavish yachts, no palatial properties, no flashy cars… India Inc.'s new billionaires prefer to keep it simple.

Teeing off: All Cargo Global's Shetty
Warren Buffett is the second richest man in the world, according to the Forbes 2007 list of wealthiest people. He's also one of the thriftiest. As the magazine notes, Buffett "recently traded in a six-year-old Lincoln Town Car for a 2006 Cadillac DTS. Granted those are both luxury cars. But these traditional American sedans cost a fraction of the price of a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce and are frumpy compared to exotic sports cars". India's new billionaires would appear to have taken a leaf out of Buffett's book on frugality. No Bentleys or Rolls-Royces or Ferraris or Lamborghinis for them-four of the six billionaires featured in BT have a Mercedes in their garage, a car that doubtless screams "I've arrived," but which doesn't exactly put across the exclusivity and glitter you'd expect of a well-heeled billionaire. What is more, Shantanu Prakash of Educomp Solutions is happy driving a Hyundai Sonata to office, and Bhadresh Shah is fastidious about staying away from foreign cars!

But then again, like Buffett, India Inc.'s new billionaires are perfectly comfortable without the dazzle, and away from the spotlight. Most of them extol the virtues of simple living-for instance, home food invariably overrides five-star spreads and domestic vacations are, by and large, preferred to exotic overseas escapes. Simply put, these entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the billionaire tag, and tend to flush and squirm when any reference is made to their market wealth.

Prakash of Educomp hasn't yet ventured on a foreign holiday. In fact, he hasn't taken a vacation at all in the past couple of years. But he threatens to get away-and when he does it, he hopes to travel really far. "I don't know when, but if I get time, Alaska will be my destination," quips Prakash, who lives in Gurgaon. Shashikant Patel of Plethico Pharma does embark on vacations-but that's only when the family forces him to do so. And Vinod Kashyap of B.L. Kashyap proudly lets on that "I recently went to Rishikesh. My holiday destination is the hills."

Sartorial elegance may also not be high up on the priority list. Patel, who has been living in suburban Mumbai for many years now, still prefers to wear a safari suit to office. Business suits are strictly for meetings only. P.N.C. Menon of Sobha Developers, however, is one promoter who's particular about what he wears, and is most often seen immaculately dressed in black office suits. A close acquaintance of Menon reveals "he has a good collection of ties".

Menon, who stays in Bangalore's Ulsoor area, may have a thing for clothes, but his tastes are hardly Bohemian. In fact, he just turned vegetarian last December. "Menon's interest in spirituality resulted in him becoming a veggie," explains the acquaintance, who adds that Menon makes it a point to exercise daily despite his busy schedule.

One of the few indulgences for these tycoons is predictably golf. Shashi Kiran Shetty of All Cargo Global and AIA Engineering's Bhadresh Shah are avid golfers; Shah has been swinging the clubs for the past 12 years. Vinod Kashyap of B.L. Kashyap & Sons seldom misses his evening session of yoga. If you don't see them on a midnight romp through town or strutting their ample stuff on page three, that's because: One, their billions are self-made and not inherited; and, two, middle-class values are often underrated.