Friday, 14 November 2008

Richest Indian tech czars

The global financial crisis has severely affected the Indian IT industry. With the industry's biggest market (US) and largest vertical (BFSI) badly hit, the industry is facing tough times. However, despite the economic downturn, Indian IT honchos have been able to keep their places in the Forbes' Richest Indians list.

While the list has seen a few changes with some new names entering and some falling out, the six tech czars have largely kept their places intact (barring some minor changes). However, like all others, these technology CEOs too have witnessed huge erosion in their net worth vis-a-vis the year 2007. According to Forbes, the wealthiest Indians are worth 60 per cent less than a year ago.

Here are the richest tech czars of India Inc.

Anil Ambani
Anil Ambani heads Reliance Communiactions which is one of the India's largest information and communication services company with over 50 million subscribers.

Anil got RCom after he and brother Mukesh Ambani split the Reliance Group in 2005 in a deal brokered by their mother breaking the family's assets. Anil's plans to merge his Reliance Communications with South Africa's MTN in what would have been India's largest-ever overseas deal were scuttled in July after brother Mukesh threatened to sue, claiming he had right of first refusal.

The company's stock has fallen by almost 48 per cent since. In the last quarter, RCom saw 23.3 per cent rise in revenue to Rs 5,645 crore. Anil recently said that the company's GSM rollout (in remaining 14 circles) is on schedule and despite the liquidity crunch in the financial markets; the funding requirement is fully in place.

A marathon runner, early 2008 he raised $3 billion from the IPO of his Reliance Power, the biggest in India's history.

Sunil Mittal
Telecom czar Sunil Mittal ranks fourth with net worth of $7.9 billion. Mittal was also recently named among the 10 most influential telecom leaders in the world.

Sunil recently said that the business conglomerate was aiming at $10 billion revenue by 2010. Apart from further expanding its flagship company and leading mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, which now contributes over 80 per cent to the group's revenue, the focus will be on its other ventures such as retail, agri-business and financial services.

In May Bharti made a failed bid to acquire South African telco MTN. Urging the Government to actively provide support to the telecom sector and cut levies, Sunil recently said that the telecom companies were going to remote places and building telecom infrastructure.

Sunil started his career at a young age of 18 after graduating from Punjab University and founded Bharti, with a modest capital, in the year 1976. Today, he heads a successful enterprise, among the top five in India, with a market capitalisation of over $ 35 billion employing over 30,000 people.

Bharti has grown successfully in partnership with various leading companies of the world - Singapore Telecom, Vodafone, Warburg Pincus, British Telecom to name a few.

Azim Premji
Wipro Group chairman Azim Premji ranks seventh on the Forbes list with a net worth of $7 billion. A graduate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, US, Premji took on the mantle of leadership at Wipro at the age of 21, after the sudden demise of his father in 1966.

Under his leadership, the fledgling $ 2 million hydrogenated cooking fat company has grown to a $1.76 billion IT Services organisation serving customers across the globe. This year Wipro acquired outsourcing firm Infocrossing; bought Southeast Asian personal care products outfit Unza; opened software development center in Mexico. Son Rishad, Harvard Business School graduate, joined Wipro in July last year, setting buzz about a succession plan.

As IT companies scramble to cope with the economic downturn, Wipro is among the two Indian software exporters that have shown significant revenue growth during the last few quarters.

Also called `Penny-Pinching Billionaire' by Wall Street Journal, Premji reportedly drove a Ford Escort for eight years before trading it in for a new Toyota Corolla. He is known to usually walk to work from his nearby home. Paper plates were said to have been used at a luncheon in honor of his son Rishad's wedding a few years ago.

Shiv Nadar
Founder of one of the India's oldest IT company, HCL, Shiv Nadar ranks at No 15 with a personal net worth of $2.2 billion. A man educated in the Tamil medium and who saw a city for the first time when he was 22, Shiv has indeed come a long way.

He started Microcomp in 1976 (rechristened HCL) with six friends with a capital base of Rs 1.75 lakh borrowed from his PF. This was after resigning from his job at DCM. When IBM quit India, Shiv moved to replace the vacated space.

The HCL Group recently outbid Infosys Technologies to acquire London-listed consulting firm Axon Group for $700 million. Company's software arm HCL Technologies recently pipped larger rivals, TCS and Wipro to clinch a large CIS (core insurance solution) implementation deal from the public sector National Insurance Company Ltd (NICL).

Under Shiv's supervision and guidance the company was listed on NASDAQ in 1999. He has been conferred with honorary doctorate degrees by leading universities across the world.

Anurag Dikshit
Anurag Dikshit of PartyGaming (parent company of the world's leading online poker site comes at No 23 with a net worth of $1.25 billion.

Anurag joined PartyGaming when he was only 25 years and designed the software for its successful PartyPoker, allowing live gambling over the Web.

Dikshit sold large part of the shares and left the company's board in 2006. The company’s stock has been down 80 per cent since 2005 peak due to new US laws banning financial groups from facilitating online bets.

Dikshit earned degree in computer science and engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Dikshit worked as a software developer in the United States at CMC, as a systems analyst for Websci and later as a consultant for AT&T.

Narayana Murthy
Non-executive chairman of India's second largest IT company, Infosys Technologies, NR Narayana Murthy ranks at 29th position with a net worth of Rs $965 million.

Son of a schoolteacher, Murthy had no godfather, no venture capital and no political contacts for making this journey possible. Murthy shared wealth with his fellow workers, laid down best-in-class practices and spawned a whole generation of entrepreneurs.

As Infosys' first CEO, Murthy ran the company for 20 years and laid down a solid foundation. A leader’s greatest test of character comes only at times of adversity. Murthy’s darkest hour was a day in 1990, when his cofounders, after years of struggle and frustrations at dealing with the government decided to throw in the towel. Infosys was being offered a princely sum of $1 million in a buyout and the other founders wanted to exit. But Murthy believed that Infosys was destined for bigger things. Although he didn’t have any money he offered to buy out the cofounders and continue running Infosys. Stunned by his conviction, the other cofounders backed off. The rest as they say is history.

Murthy created a model corporate structure, which was transparent and laid emphasis on good governance. Last year Time Magazine voted him as one of the Asian heroes, along with Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, who have brought about revolutionary changes in the last 60 years. Murthy describes himself as a “compassionate capitalist” and Infosys’s ESOP plan was born from that belief. In time Infosys created 2,000 plus dollar millionaires and 20,000 plus rupee millionaires.

For Murthy “the best use of all the wealth - financial, intellectual, or emotional is to share it with the less fortunate”.