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Buffett to get Indian billionaires to open their wallets

Last updated on: March 21, 2011 14:00 IST

Buffett to get Indian billionaires to open their wallets

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Malini Bhupta & Arijit Barman in Mumbai


When the Oracle of Omaha speaks, India -- from top billionaires to the aam admi (people who buy motor insurance on Berkshire's online portal) -- will get an equal opportunity to listen.

Warren Buffett, Berkshire's legendary chief and the world's second-richest individual, who begins his three-day India visit next week, will meet India's richest next Thursday (March 24) and the policy-holders (Berkshire Hathaway is a corporate agent of Bajaj Allianz) the day after.

Buffett is not coming to only talk foreign direct investment in insurance and invest his billions in Indian equities.

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Image: Warren Buffett, chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Photographs: Reuters
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His primary aim is to convince the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Savitri Jindal and her sons Navin and Sajjan, brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, Azim Premji and Narayana Murthy to consider sharing a large part of their wealth in their lifetime under an initiative called Giving Pledge.

From India, so far only Nandan Nilekani and wife Rohini Nilekani have committed to giving half their wealth for philanthropy.

The Giving Pledge idea came from conversations that Bill and Melinda Gates (who will also accompany Buffett to India) and Buffett had with philanthropists in the United States and other countries.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Last September, Gates and Buffett held a similar meeting in China. The two surely don't expect India's billionaires to part with a large part of their wealth just yet. Hence, this meeting will be more of a classroom lecture.

However, the meeting with the policy-holders on Friday will be a perfect launch pad for berkshireinsurance.com.

Customers across India who buy a policy from the website will get an invite to meet and interact with Buffett. But there is a catch. The policy-holders have to register and the invites will be strictly on a first-come-first-served basis.

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Photographs: Reuters
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But Buffett's first port of call will be Bengaluru-based tool maker TaeguTec India, whose parent company I-M-C, is controlled by Berkshire Hathaway. The company specialises in tungsten carbide cutting tools, tungsten carbide rolls and industrial products.

Buffett is also scheduled to meet the management of NetJets, which offers timeshare in owning jets.

The visit will also be a homecoming for Buffett protege and the head of Berkshire's reinsurance operations, Ajit Jain, tipped to be Buffett's successor.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Jain is scheduled to host a lunch for his boss and their Berkshire India colleagues in New Delhi ahead of a grand dinner at the Taj.

A trip to Delhi is incomplete without meeting the policy wonks and the powers-that-be.

So, Buffett is expected to have an appointment with the prime minister and have lunch with Indian parliamentarians.


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