Shoonya se Shikhar



Why a book on Indian industrialists? How much do we know about our industrialists or the amount of lime light our politicians and cricket players get? Why isn’t the same given to our industrialists who actually give a new direction to country’s economy and establish India in the world?


I am associated with print and electronic media for last two decades. These and similar questions have perturbed me in these years again & again. My experience tells me that our information system is under the control of politicians and politics, and for it they are not to be blamed either. Actually it is we who are responsible for this. For media people like me, politics is the only news. Industrialists like N.R. Narayanmurthy, Azim Premji, Dr. Parvinder Singh, K. Anji Reddy, Dr. Pratap C. Reddy, Rajesh Hukku, Anil Agrawal, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Onkar S. Kanwar and Venu Srinivasan have earned money and also changed the life style and thinking of common man, but media never pays much attention to them but every journey of a politician or his cough & cold gets space on the front page of newspaper. Even our textbooks have no place for our industrialists. J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, Dhirubhai Ambani, Rahul Bajaj, Keshub Mahindra or Indu Jain- can’t they be the role models for our youths?


This book is a humble answer to many such questions. During the writing/editing and publishing of this book we time and again realized that success stories of Indian industrialists have more excitement then politics, cinema or cricket. These stories carry the message of entrepreneurship. These stories encourage and console us that Dhirubhai, Brij Mohanlal Munjal, Ramesh Chandra Agrawal, Ashwin Dani, Karsan Bhai Patel or Ashok Patni—they all are not any different from us and are an answer to question, if they can touch the zenith within 15-20 years of starting from zero then why can’t we! This book also intends to infuse entrepreneurship in our youth.


One more thing that we have been careful about while writing, editing this book is that whatever we wrote about anyone we sent it to him for approval before its publication. We are happy that many industrialists took our efforts in all seriousness and corrected our mistakes. Some even sent us some new information. This gesture encouraged us to make sure that printed information and material is updated and latest as far as possible. Here we would also like to clarify that business world never stops- takeovers are an order of the day, business activities are expanded daily, financial results change and share market changes its hues at every hour, hence it is possible that by the time you get a chance to read this book an industry has undergone some change. But you will also note that despite these changes the basic nature and strategies of a group remains the same. We believe that this is the mainstay of any group that should be read and marked by the reader, rest is nothing but a passing phase or a series of events.


Another point is the selection of industrialists and their groups. Whenever such a collection of essays is prepared, some names are likely to be left while there may be some others whose inclusion is likely to be questioned. We understand that such objections/ questions are bound to rise during the critical review of book. Not only this but the serial order of these essays could also be questioned. All this is very quite natural. For example- inclusion of Amitabh Bachchan in this book may be questioned. Similarly there may be an objection about the inclusion of Tatas and Birlas in the book entitled Zero to Zenith / Shoonya se Shikhar. Inclusion of Eakta Kapoor can also be objected to. Many people may not find it appropriate to begin the book with Ambani group. We tried to foresee these and similar questions and made an attempt that the reader gets the answers to these as he goes through every page of book. Still there is every possibility that readers may find some other things unpalatable for certain other reasons. We are open to all such different opinions especially we expect our critics to guide us in the right direction, which will enable us to improvise the next editions of book.


Writing about a living businessman is no cakewalk. We have tried with utmost caution to present the bare facts without diluting or mixing those with fiction. You will find references of various books and magazines in this book. Undoubtedly these references are topical and may have changed yet they represent a person’s or group’s point of view and are hence universal.


Yet another objection that needs to be clarified is that industry and corporate world has been time and again blamed and accused of bending the rules to their convenience, and their working questioned from time to time. These accusations remain in news for sometime and are then forgotten. Some of these leave their scars while some others get wiped with the passage of time. There was a time when Dhirubhai Ambani was accused of going against the law and labelled a law breaker for some of his actions but today he is a role model for the young generation of country and all his objectionable actions of past are hailed as an expression of his foresightedness. We would once again like to emphasize that this book is a simple attempt of writing history and not a piece of investigative journalism. Its only motto is the revival of entrepreneurship and not the criticism or praise of any personality or group.


As we know truth has many aspects and in this book we have included the most easily available truth about the groups and individuals. There is every possibility that some facts about our central characters have not seen the light of the day. Hence this book should be accepted as a book based on the available knowledge and information. We would also like to add that there are whispers about certain groups that every thing is not hunky-dory under the calm surface. Such discussions and fears have not been included in this book for two reasons, first, they have not been proved and second, our objective of writing this book has been to portray entrepreneurship and industry of these people to inspire our coming generations. It is for this reason that this book has been given the name ‘Shoonya Se Shikhar’, and written with the hope that readers will read it as a story that encouraged them to reach to the top. One can easily guess that what does the story of Amitabh Bachchan evoke in us or what will the chapter on Eakta Kapoor encourage us for or still more in which direction will the article on Narayan Murthy prompt us to move? Obviously the journey of all these groups tells us that only concentrated and focused efforts in a particular direction lay the foundation of success. With these feelings and thoughts we dedicate this book to our readers.


We sincerely request our readers and critics to be generous with their reactions and criticisms. We are anxiously waiting for their comments, as those will make our next efforts more meaningful and easy. We want that this book should reach the more and more of the young generation of our country, so as they can participate in realizing the dream of our President, “To transform India into a developed and prosperous country by the year 2020.”


Why this Book


Prosperity is a human right one doesn’t get for asking.


Our paradoxical behaviour is our biggest draw back. We don’t speak what we think, because we don’t want to hurt anyone. We don’t put our words into practice because none has done that before us, so why should we take the risk? We earn fame and money but don’t tell anyone about it, because we don’t want to be branded as a ‘loud mouth’. The list of such contrasting behaviour is very long. An important part of this list is that none of us want to lead a poor man’s life but we also don’t stop cursing the rich. We want prosperity but we are afraid of taking risks. As a result, even after 57 years of independence our country is struggling to gain prosperity. Majority of our population is still below the poverty line.


Almost three hundred years ago our very own India was a completely self-reliant country. In 18th century India was the second largest contributor of the world’s total income. Then its share in world income was 22-23% while today it has reduced to less than 0.5%. The biggest tragedy is that whenever the question of finding the cause of this downfall arises we avoid to go for our soul searching, instead we try to escape the situation by blaming others- for example 200 years of British rule, 50 years of enmity with Pakistan, or aggression of China, difference of opinion with America, Terrorism, Draught-Famine, Earthquakes, Population explosion, illiteracy etc.


There is no doubt that foreign invasions and rules exploited our natural, human and economic resources for their personal benefit. When British left our country we were in the deep pain of partition and there was a scarcity of practically everything. First government of independent India felt that socialism was the only solution of this problem; hence it adopted  ‘a socialist economy, rationing and controls’. Government started implementing the policy of minimal utilization / exploitation of resources. It also started deciding that which industry would be completely under the control of government and in which areas private sector would be given the partnership and how this partnership would be given; who will set up the industry and where? What will be the cost of raw material and finished goods will be sold at what price? The Russian model was perfect and flawless but the enforcement and implementation of this model was entrusted to bureaucracy due to which it didn’t give expected results.


Politicians and bureaucrats became so powerful during the permit and license regime that it became almost impossible to establish and run an industry in India. Distribution of license for setting up an industry in itself became a source of heavy income. Industrialists were spending their time and energy in air-travels and visiting the concerned ministries at Delhi. All the commercial activities of country were limited to a specific circle. The non-competitive atmosphere and chaotic market further exploited the consumer. They had to wait long for acquiring small things of even daily use as production was under government control. At times people paid double of factory price to get things early. Not only this, to compensate the increasing government expenditure more control was imposed and new taxes were levied. As a result country developed a parallel economy of black money.


Who made how much from whom, during this plunder of consumers that went on for 40 years after the independence, is not known so the question of bringing the guilty to books does not even arise. The paradox is, the guilty themselves, fearful of public’s wrath, started blaming the business community at large and manufacturers in particular. They were presented as profiteers, tax-thief, and social exploiters. What was their share in the plunder or were they a creation of circumstances; these issues were sidelined. An artificial environment of hatred came to exist in the nation, where the dominant thought was- ‘He who earns wealth is sucking the blood of the poor’. Implying, wealth generation was a social evil. This is not all, under a well-crafted strategy; this point of view was propagated and eased into the public’s thought process. Please recall the movies of the 60s and 70s era where ‘poverty was glamorized and industrialist were shown as enemies of the poor’.


‘Simple living, earn less, eat less, wear coarse, and walk on foot’ may be ideals worthy of inclusion in a book or compulsion for some or exception for others. Common man first concern and desire is ‘financial safety and prosperity for the complete family’. Take a look at the height of this paradox. Those who were preaching to the nation- ‘simple life – good life’, their accounts in National or Foreign Banks were flush with funds. Their children got foreign education and ordinary children could get in to government schools with tattered mats for seating the students. While people of a particular ‘class’ went abroad for treatment of minor ailments, the masses were deprived of life saving drugs by the same system. Even the list of such paradoxes is very long.


The truth of the matter is the thought- ‘Money making is evil’ proved to be more destructive for ‘entrepreneurship’ when compared to the ‘Babu culture’ left behind by the British. We wish this wasn’t the case! If, along with the exploits of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave or Lal Bahadur Shatri; the stories of struggles and glories of J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, Laxman Rao Kirloskar or Godrej were to be included in the school text books; the crowds of youth chasing the jobs would have automatically vanished. We have shut the prosperity out of our domain by labeling as useless the widespread traditions of Indian Entrepreneurship such as Steel-smith, Weavers, Shoe-makers, Carpenters or Tailors. We have lost a great deal by ignoring the words of our ancestors- ‘Uttam Kheti, Madhaym Vaan, Adham Chakari, Bheekh Saman!” Time has come to regain what has been lost.


It is not a flight of fancy. If you will take a look at the change economic scenario after the decade of 90s, you will find that the intense, ruthless competition that stormed the country after Liberalisation and removal of controls, has first taken away with it is the mindset of ‘Money making is evil’. Together with new Industries and first generation Industrialists and merchants; markets now are flooded with new products as well. Things or services that were available after a long wait are now being ‘home delivered’ along with ‘gifts’ to encourage trials. No one talks of ‘On-money’ or ‘Black-market Prices’ but discounts or price cuts are being propagated for a change. The interesting thing is that we are not completely free from the impact of ‘economic double-dealing’ of five decades and yet the surprising results of changed environment are visible. Indian industry, which was afraid of competition in the beginning of liberalization, is now finding a foothold in foreign lands. India holds a predominant position in IT, Pharma, Healthcare Services, Automobiles and Auto Component industry around the world. Indian industrialists are easily able to raise capital from the capital markets abroad. Non-resident Indians are now returning home. After watching India’s return to world market in the last decade, the economic analysts around the world are predicting ‘an Indian Decade in Asian Century’.


Please note, this is the result of getting rid of the mind set- ‘‘Desire to be rich, and money making is evil!” We have accepted after many centuries that there is no evil in using ‘knowledge’ as capital in pursuit of wealth…or even in India it is possible to transact business in an ethical and transparent manner…or educated youth from ordinary family can set up high tech industry…or taking a well considered and calculated risk it is possible to earn a huge wealth…which means likes of Dhiru Bhai of Reliance, Narayan Murthy of Infosys, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Group, Anji Reddy of Dr. Reddy’s Labs, Raju of Satyam Computers, Ashwin Dani of Asian Paints, Ramesh Agrawal of Bhaskar Group, Pratap Reddy of Apollo Hospital, Lohia of Indorama, Rajesh Hukku of i-flex or Anil Agrawal of Sterlite being ‘commercial strategists’ and ‘risk takers’ are neither miracles nor exceptions. They too are ordinary mortals like us; the difference being that of their enthusiasm, dedication and passion in pursuit of goals and belief in their victory.


To cut a long story short, the heroes of this book first got rid of their conflicting thoughts and are now sending a message to us all- ‘Affluence is a human right rarely served on a platter. One has to lead his team from front and take risks’. They all say the same thing, ‘Rights do not come for asking; even these are to be earned by you. If you are living in poverty, you only are to be blamed’.


Friends, have I been able to reach you with this message of the great heroes or not i.e. ‘How is this book?’ is a minor question for me. During the labour pains of writing this book, I have relived the true events and memoirs of my dear characters. While repeating those moments in words, in my solitude, while I have some times laughed, was overwhelmed on other occasions. While I permanently treasure those moments of solitude, I would consider myself successful only if you too could feel the same way.


I have no hesitation in admitting that this is not a self-inspired text. The information is obtained from different sources, country’s well-read commercial newspapers and magazines and has been repeated in my style. I do not wish to claim that I have attempted some thing great or contributed to classical literature. The truth is that I have no such capabilities. It is my good fortune that as child of tender age, I found myself in august company of late Shri Brijlalji Biyani, ‘Bhaiji’ (former and senior politician from Vidarbha-Maharashtra, a literary scholar and In-law of late Shri G.D. Birla). In the decade of 60s, I was lucky to closely observe the Birla Dynasty and their prosperous living. My young mind could then conclude that a ‘service class’ person finally goes back home empty handed (devoid even of identity and not just wealth), and just like any Indian I too have led a paradoxical life. Worked for 25 years with State Bank of India, and when I tried to give up stable and financially safe-avenue during 90s, i.e. attempted to make a living as an independent writer instead of a Bank job, friends and relatives alike cursed and tried to dissuade me though in vain. Wife Sunita Biyani and daughters Anshu and Anchal became my support during this period and encouraged me to pursue the course of my heart. I dissociated myself from the bank by opting for no frills attached retirement and joined Dainik Bhaskar at one fourth of the salary drawn at State Bank. Looking at my banking background, the managing director of Bhaskar group Sudhir Agrawal and the senior editor Shravan Garg gave me the responsibility of writing the corporate column in paper.  This responsibility gave me the opportunity to get a different view of the corporate world of country. In last ten years whenever I have immersed myself in the depth of this ocean, I have always come out with an oyster at times it was empty and at times it contained a pearl. Over the years I have collected these pearls and made a string of these. Today when I am putting this collection in your hands, I don’t have enough words to express my happiness. This book is an attempt to introduce you to some of the shining stars of the corporate world some of them are in their true colours while some others are behind sheen.


In case this book doesn’t fulfil your expectations it will be my failure and if you find it worth appreciation then its onus will not only be on me but also on some of my friends and well wishers which include—Girish Agrawal (Director Bhaskar Group), Anil Dhupar Senior Vice president Bhaskar Group), Pramod Farkkya (Executive Director- Vigilance Publicity), Ashok Gupta (Central India Dairy), Dr. Bharat Agrawal (Executive Director Bhaskar Group), Ravindra Shah (Sahara TV), Nishith Saran (Corporate Consultant), Sanjay Lunawat (Chairman, Lunawat Management and Educational Services Ltd.), Dr. Pushpa Shrivastava (Vedika Research Centre) and Dr. Lokesh Bhatia. It will be unfair if I do not mention Mahendra Sakalle, who spent many nights helping me in writing this book. I also acknowledge the contribution of Smt. Kamayani Mahodaya and Mr. Danish Sheikh (Webdunia) for doing transcription of the English version of this book.  Further I cannot forget the contribution of Manish Bhati and Kamlesh Maheshwari—my sons-in-law who helped me all through this. I am grateful to Ashok Maheshwari of Rajkamal Prakashan for having the courage to first publish this book in Hindi and now in English.


I await your sincere reactions and comments whether you find my attempt appreciable or otherwise.




Prakash Biyani.




Inspiration of Book



 President of India

 Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s Vision 2020,

“We have to make India a developed country by 2020…..”




I am happy to know that a book narrating the success stories of leading industrialists of country is being published. Contribution of each of these industrialists in the industrial development of country is commendable. I strongly believe that the imagination and efforts of such industrialists will successfully place us as the foremost country among the developed countries of the world. I hope that this book ‘Shoonya Se Shikhar’ will inspire the industrialists of country to advance on the path of excellence.”


Bhairon Singh Shekhawat,

Vice-President of India.



This is not a book in the series of ‘How to be successful’ or ‘How to become a millionaire’. It is the story of those Indian Corporates, who have actually touched the zenith while starting from zero. Heroes of this book have taken the right risk at the right time and convey the message of entrepreneurship. They also emphasize the point that wealth creation is not a vice. It is only by following these leaders that we can contribute in materializing ‘Vision 2020’, the dream of our President, His Excellency A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.


Prakash Biyani

 Writing since his adolescence, Prakash Biyani, has actually been a banker. After serving State Bank of India for 27 years he has also been the corporate writer of Dainik Bhaskar for 8 years. He has written more than 2000 articles, which have been published in various papers and magazines of the country. Presently he is busy writing on Indian Corporate Sector and company issues as a Freelance writer. At personal level he is an admirer of Dhirubhai Ambani’s practicality and idealism of Narayan Murthy, and believes that –‘Prosperity is a human right that has to be earned by every one. A truly prosperous person is the one who returns back a part of his material success or experience to society…. Like this book.’