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10 business people we'd like to see contesting the next election

Last updated on: September 18, 2013 17:07 IST

10 business people we'd like to see contesting the next election

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Amberish K Diwanji

Will Nandan Nilekani actually fight the elections? While the I-T czar says the question is speculative, here's our list of 10 eminent business leaders who should get on the stump, says Amberish K Diwanji.

News reports say that Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and currently  the chief of India’s ambitious Unique Identification project, might contest the upcoming elections on a Congress ticket from Bangalore South.

While he may or may not, businessmen joining politics is not a new phenomenon, but with most of them preferring to come in via the Rajya Sabha, where electoral victories are usually predictable. 

But while there are thus a few businessmen in politics, there are scores of others who have stayed aloof from the heat and dust of Indian politics. These include some eminent personalities who, we believe, should be in politics.

Here's looking at some eminent business leaders who we think should get into electoral politics.

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Image: Nandan Nilekani (left) with Bill Gates. Will he, won't he?
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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Ratan Tata

At present, Ratan Tata is without a job (though there are rumours that he might chair the fledgeling Air Asia airline, given his passion for aviation).

He willingly stepped aside to let another person (a non-Tata at that) take charge of India’s largest conglomerate that his family is synoymous with.

This alone makes him different from our politicians and businessmen (and sportsmen) who just cling on, never letting go.

His launch of the Tata Nano, a car for the aam aadmi, shows a heart in the right place.

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Image: Ratan Tata.
Photographs: Arko Dutta/Reuters

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10 business people we'd like to see contesting the next election

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Narayana Murthy

A few years ago, there was a strong buzz that Murthy was keen to become President of India.

Had that happened, he would have been the first to businessman-turned-head of state.

His belief and practice of corporate governance and best practices had made him India’s poster boy, including the fact that he turned drivers and peons into millionaires (by giving them shares of Infosys).

Since returning to Infosys, and pushing his son up the hierarchy, Murthy’s shine has waned a bit, but he remains one of middle-class India’s favourite persons, and who can win an election easily.

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Image: Narayana Murthy
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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Azim Premji

The chairman of Wipro is better known today as the country’s greatest philanthropist who, according to a Forbes report, donated 8.7 per cent of his personal wealth for charity. Compare this to the fact that on an average, Indian companies spend 0.8 per cent on CSR activities.

A man who cares so deeply for people as to commit 12 per cent of his stake in Wipro to charity is clearly a man of the people and for the people.

Then there is this bit of trivia that endeared him to millions of Indians. Years ago, in an interview, Premji said the best thing his grandfather ever did was not to go to Pakistan where Jinnah had offered to make him a cabinet minister.

Time to make Azim Premji a cabinet minister, I say!

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Image: Azim Premji
Photographs: Reuters.

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Anu Aga

Anu Aga did a great job as chairperson of Thermax (but to be honest, so do the others on this list).

She is a woman, which makes her a rarity in the world of business (there are more women in politics than business). But Aga is perhaps the only “man” in the business world, where businessmen grovel before politicians for fear of offending them (and losing business in the bargain).

This lady of steel courageously spoke out against the 2002 violence in Gujarat, visited camps to help those in distress (read Muslims), and actually criticised the government.

While businessmen keep falling over each other to praise Modi, she has not and declared, famously, that development cannot override secularism.

Her convictions and willingness to stand up for them won’t make her popular with businessmen or politicians, but India needs people like her in politics.

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Image: Anu Aga
Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

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Deepak Parekh

A few years ago, when Parekh was heading to the US to attend a wedding function, he got a call from the then finance minister asking him to return for a meeting on the state of the economy.

To make sure he got the message, a little later Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up to reiterate the message that his advice and suggestion were badly needed.

Parekh is considered as one of India’s brightest on matters of finance and economy.

Given the pathetic state of the Indian economy and the looming stagflation, Parekh should be made the next finance minister, regardless of which party wins.

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Image: Deepak Parekh
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters

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Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani is not a true entrepreneur, that title is deserved for his father, the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani who built a business empire from nothing.

What Mukesh has done is to take Reliance from being an Indian giant to a global giant.

Today, India is poised in the same place that Reliance was about two decades ago, and needs to be kicked into shape to become a truly developed nation, taking its rightful place in the world.

Mukesh did that with Reliance, he should be able to do that with India as well!

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Image: Mukesh Ambani
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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Anand Mahindra

From a business perspective, Mahindra & Mahindra has gone from manufacturing jeeps to mini trucks and cars and scooters.

But that isn’t why Anand deserves to be a politician. Born in 1955, Anand is not exactly young (he is older than Mukesh Ambani), but Anand resonates with Gen Y like a few others.

His love of blues, his sponsoring of film fests rather than just boring business seminars (he studied film-making), and his youthful zest give him a hip image, of a man on the move, whose world is not limited by his profession.

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Image: Anand Mahindra
Photographs: Reuters

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Sunil Mittal

Mittal’s business interests represent the future of India. Thanks to him, millions of Indians have mobile phones today, and nowadays they don’t just talk but use the same mobiles to download games, chat, and watch movies.

He is foraying into retail, seen as the next big wave for India, even as Airtel becomes a presence in Africa, the rising continent.

If most of the businessmen here represent what India was or is good at, Mittal represents what India will lead in. He should be more than just chairman, he should be a Cabinet minister.

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Image: Sunil Mittal
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

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Y K Hamied

Hamied shot into the news after he decided that his drug manufacturing company would not behave like profiteering Western pharmaceutical firms.

He ordered Cipla to sell generic AIDS drugs cheaply so that poor people, often the worst victims of AIDS, could buy the medicines.

Few will deny that India needs a Robin Hood among the ministers, a qualification that fits Yusuf Hamied. That he is chairman of Cipla in the age of pharmaceuticals is an added benefit.

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Image: Y K Hamied.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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A M Naik

Ask anyone, businessman or layman, what India needs the most and the answer is always “infrastructure”.

India needs roads connecting every village of this country, more electricity so that blackouts are history, more schools and hospitals and houses and airports and ports and … the list is endless.

It is for this reason that India needs an infrastructure man in politics, and who better than the executive chairman of India’s largest infra firm, L&T? 

Naik has been at the helm of L&T, which was founded in the 1930s by two Danes, and under him the company has only grown. It is time his talents are utilised for India.



Image: A M Naik
Photographs: Reuters

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