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6 qualities that make you a crorepati
Pankaj Anup Toppo, Outlook Money | September 18, 2006
That's Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), failed farmer, teacher, journalist, actor, novelist, stock market investor. Also the bestselling author of How to Win Friends and Influence People that made him a millionaire.
Some people make their fortunes young. For others like Carnegie, it happens after a lifetime of wait and trial -- among other things, he lost his shirt in the 1929 Wall Street crash. But for most, it remains an unrealised dream.
What makes people go farthest on the path of creating wealth? Is there a formula to become a crorepati for ordinary people?
Carnegie -- arguably the first successful self-help author -- and other writers, especially those covering personal finance, have put forward their own prescriptions. While only a few readers may have benefited, the best-selling among the authors have become millionaires.
The better informed among us might blurt out the conventional financial wisdom which Outlook Money and other publications have come up with from time to time -- start saving and investing early and keep doing it regularly, take loans within limits, insure your life and assets and so on.
But while financial prudence and planning are important prerequisites to make millions, they aren't enough. In the wealth creation derby, what do the winners do which the also-rans don't?
The six qualities of crorepatis
To get the answer, we studied the wealth creation stories of some crorepatis and picked up lessons from their lives that you can use. We found that six old-fashioned attributes -- self-belief, perseverance, seizing opportunities, innovation, betting on your talent and constant learning -- play a pivotal role in determining our wealth.
From the individual stories of six people, it comes out clearly that, though wealth wasn't their primary goal when they set out, it was a driving force for the success they achieved.
The path of wealth creation is often bumpy and can even resemble a roller-coaster ride. Ask Delhi-based Sanjay Chowdhary, 39, franchisee, Reliance Webworld Express, and he will tell you, for he has seen it all.
He began as a government upper division clerk (UDC) with a salary of Rs 1,400 per month in 1987, went on to clock annual revenues of Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) from his Airtel shop in partnership with his sibling by 2003, then gave it all away to his brother and started from scratch to build a successful Reliance Webworld Express franchise.
"When I got engaged to my wife Radha in 1996, I used to ride a motorbike to meet her. Today, I own a Chevrolet Optra," says Chowdhary, summing up his journey of wealth. What kept Chowdhary on course towards his tryst with fortune? The answer: a peerless quality called self-belief.
From employment to self-employment: When Chowdhary quit his government job in 1995, his monthly pay stood at Rs 6,500. "Since I was a UDC, I could not have done much in that department," says Chowdhary. "Realising that mobility was restricted in a government set-up, he opened a shop along with his brother in the refurbished drawing room of his house in Delhi's swanky Greater Kailash-II. The start-up capital of Rs 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) was drawn from family reserves. "We wanted to be different and offer products that were not available in the vicinity," says Chowdhary.
At that point, the telecom sector was still in its infancy and Chowdhary decided to take up an Airtel dealership. Gradually, he started selling cell phones and also sundry gift items. The business soon became profitable and in five years, revenues from the store skied to Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) annually.
Plunge into the abyss: In 2003, tragedy struck. Chowdhary legally split with his brother and surrendered the shop to strike out on his own. At this juncture, Reliance stormed into the telecom scene and Chowdhary chose to become a franchisee of Reliance Webworld Express.
The company rented out Chowdhary's property for the venture. Apart from the rent he got from Reliance, he managed the franchise as well. With old customers coming in, collections from his franchise now stand at Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) a month.
While Chowdhary is diplomatic when quizzed on his net worth, taking his revenues and financial and real estate assets into account, he can safely be termed a crorepati.
The year: 1969. Trekking his way through Iran and Turkey, Mahesh Naithani, 23, on his way to England for higher studies, is temporarily incarcerated in a Bulgarian transit jail.
Naithani, son of an Allahabad University academic, was armed with a Master's degree in Political Science and saddled with the disappointment of a futile one-year search for a corporate job when he boarded a cargo ship from Mumbai a few months back with just Rs 500 in his pocket.
He ran out of money on the way and had to sell his prized watch for $50 in Teheran to raise money for the air journey to Turkey. Was he running out of luck? Would he have to shelve his plans for a better future?
Cut to 2006 and successful US-based serial entrepreneur Naithani talks about his net worth in excess of $25 million with nonchalance. What powered his remarkable journey to wealth? Perseverance.
From the Bulgarian transit jail to Yugoslavia, then again to an Austrian transit jail, finally to Germany, where by working night shifts at an exhibition, staying at a youth hostel and surviving on free hot dogs, he managed to save money for his trip to England via France.
Dismayed with the anti-immigration sentiments in England when he landed there, Naithani soon crossed the Atlantic to the US for higher studies.
Turnaround begins. With a little help from an American friend, Naithani managed to land a factory job in Minneapolis at a wage of $2.75 an hour that helped him save enough to enroll in the MBA programme in the University of Minnesota in 1970.
Naithani's perseverance and never-say-die attitude was fashioning his life's turnaround. The good luck continued. At a cultural gathering, he mistook Christina, a sociology student from El Salvador, for a Manipuri girl. Thus began their relationship that culminated in marriage.
In 1972, Naithani completed his MBA and took up a $14,000 per annum job offer by The New York Times. For the next ten years, he remained in the corporate sector, working in large companies, moving up to the post of vice president with an annual pay packet of $54,000.
In 1982, seeing an emerging opportunity in medical content business, he bought a small company called QSI for $50,000. He ran the company for three years and sold it for $250,000 to industry major International Thomson in 1985.
He then acquired a company called HCI for $200,000. In 1997, Naithani sold HCI to industry leader VNU for $24 million. "A five-year non-compete clause in the deal meant that I had to devote my energy to other things," says Naithani.
He turned to his passion, art and culture, and produced three movies, Jai Ganga, Bombay Boys and Such a Long Journey. But a failed takeover attempt of a movie company and a shelved BBC documentary project made him reconsider his options.
In 2003, as the non-compete clause tenure ended, Naithani decided to re-boot into medical content. This was how MedMeme was born with a $2.5-3 million start-up capital. The company specialises in collection and analysis of clinical and marketing intelligence and has the world's top pharma and healthcare companies as its clients with its back-office in Gurgaon.
Naithani's repeated successes underscore the importance of perseverance even in the wake of dismal failures.
3. Seizing opportunities
"Successful people screen incoming information differently since they constantly seek new growth opportunities," points out Jacob Samuel Vazholil, associate partner, Elixir Web Solutions, a leading recruitment process outsourcing firm.
Opportunities are like waves and wealth creators are surfers. They have to spot the waves and position themselves to ride these. If you want an appropriate example, look no further than Jagdeep Khandpur, 47, of Prerna Management Consulting. Throughout his career, Khandpur spotted waves of emerging opportunities early, rode them and then moved on to the next emerging one. This approach has made Khandpur a crorepati.
Khandpur graduated in Economics from Punjab University in 1978 and then did his MBA from the same varsity before joining Vardhaman Spinning as a management trainee at Rs 1,200 a month.
"The stint gave me immense exposure," says Khandpur. The lad from Ludhiana gradually rose through the ranks until he became the deputy manager, HR. Another opportunity came calling when Milk Food appointed him personnel manager.
"I chose Milk Food as it offered challenges. At 25, I was made its HR head," says Khandpur.
Four years at Milk Food, and Khandpur was just ripe to tap the opportunity in the emerging soft drinks industry. He joined Pepsi as its northern region head and went on to become vice president, HR. He shifted base from Chandigarh to Delhi and after a short stay at Duracell, was lapped up by the Thapars as group vice president, HR, Ballarpur Industries.
The high note of the rising trajectory of opportunities was struck when five years on, Khandpur signed up with Bharti Televentures as director, HR, at a time when telecom was still an emerging sector.
"The prospects at Ballarpur were brilliant, but I was not getting a chance to do something new after a certain point," says Khandpur. He was corporate director, HR, in Bharti when he quit his job in October 2005 to start his own enterprise, Prerna Management Consulting.
"I wanted to do something that provided me enough challenges and opportunities to learn," says Khandpur. He arranged for the start-up capital and his company's revenues are already at Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million) now.
It is now a clich� to say innovation creates wealth, for most successful IT entrepreneurs in India and abroad bear testimony to the fact. But can an ordinary person innovate and create wealth? Yes, if he doesn't mind taking risks.
"Risk taking is about having the inner confidence in what you're doing and learning to match your strengths with your goals," says Anil Sachdev, founder and CEO, Grow Talent Company.
Take a peep into the life of Sanjiv Saran Mehra, 44, CEO, Saran Presents, an event management company, and you will realise how innovation helped him turn his love for sports -- he has played games like squash and tennis at the club level -- into a money spinner.
Mehra, a management graduate from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, started his career as an investment banker with Lazard India making about Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) a year in 1985. "I realised what I was doing at Lazard could be done better if I started something on my own," he says.
When he left Lazard in 1990, Mehra drew around Rs 8-12 lakh per annum. He started Vision Financial Services, a finance boutique that organised SME funding, in a 200 sq ft office in Mumbai, with Rs 40,000 from his provident fund money.
At Vision, his third eye enabled him to garner three-four times what he earned at Lazard. However, what put Mehta on the wealth creation fast track was a chance meeting with his old pal, Cawas Billimoria, who asked him to help him build the Sumo Federation of India which he was planning to set up. "That's how Saran Presents was born," says Mehra.
Once Saran Presents was on a roll, Mehra's financial boutique went into the green room. Being an ardent sports enthusiast, Mehra realised it could be frustrating for a busy executive to give up participating in competitive sports due to changed priorities. To fulfill the needs of such executives, Saran Presents started organising sports events among corporates from 1997.
Through corporate sports alone, Mehra now makes 40-50 times of what he used to make when he ran Vision. Today, he is in an enviable position: he earns millions from something close to his heart.
5. Betting on talent
Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu had said, "Turn being into an advantage and non-being into utility." Millionaires know where their strengths lie and play to these.
See how well Chennai-based Sadhana, 38, chief marketing officer, Focus Infotech, has played the wealth creation game.
"I am more of a people's person," says Sadhana. She leveraged her communication skills and excelled in various marketing jobs though she has never been formally trained in marketing. With a PG in microbiology from the University of Mumbai and a two-and-a-half-year course at NIIT, what were her chances of success in marketing? Of course, Sadhana had other ideas.
Talent buds: In 1990, she signed up with Aurelec Data Processing System, Pondicherry. "My CEO wanted me to be an analyst while my reporting officer wanted me to join the sales team," says Sadhana. The branch officer had his way and Sadhana found herself in the sales team.
Her salary then stood at Rs 2,500 per month. That's when her communication skills began talking results. Within six months, she was promoted to area manager and sooner than you think, she became a branch manager. Under her leadership, the Pondicherry branch was voted the 'Branch of the Year' for three consecutive years. She even received the 'Salesperson of the Year' award from her company.
In 1991, Sadhana moved to Nexus Computers, Aurelec's new avatar after reconstruction. Here, from regional director, she was promoted to vice president, networking. She was not only instrumental in setting up Nexus' networking division, but helped it touch a turnover of Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million). Again, her talent for communication bore results.
In 2002, she bid adieu to Nexus and started her own company Platinum Technologies. In January 2003, she converted Platinum Technologies to a private limited company, Platinum Infosystems. It was a true blue IBM business partner.
In the first year of operations, Platinum Infosystems did business worth Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) and also won the 'IBM Business Partner of the Year' award. Sadhana's people skills were now in full bloom. Around the same time, she began consulting with Focus Infotech and joined the company as its chief marketing officer in December 2003.
In three years, the firm's revenues of Rs 9 crore (Rs 90 million) more than doubled. While Sadhana wouldn't tell us about her exact net worth, it is clear that her earnings from Platinum along with her pay in Focus, which, in all likelihood, would be having a key performance-based component, would have made her a member of the crorepati club by now.
She can now indulge herself in her hobbies of horse riding and collecting antiques.
6. Constant Learning
Catwoman Eartha Kitt in the TV series Batman once crooned, "I'm learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma." Ordinary people who finish rich use Kitt's philosophy to the hilt.
One example is Arvind T., 34, business head, MeritTrac Services, a skills assessment company.
After an MBA from IIM Lucknow in 1995, Arvind joined RPG as a management trainee at a salary of Rs 1.6 lakh (Rs 160,000) a year. "The atmosphere and the opportunity to learn is great at RPG. They ensure that the trainees get an all-round view of their functional area," says Arvind, who soon got a chance to work in different companies of the RPG Group, including RPG Cellular, RPG Cable and HMV (the music arm of RPG).
He remained a management trainee for about a year and slowly moved up the ladder, getting promoted from assistant manager to manager, sales. When he finally quit RPG after four years to join GE, he had become branch manager and had an annual pay of around Rs 4-5 lakh (Rs 400,000-500,000).
The exit trigger: new learning opportunities. "Every assignment was a challenge as you needed to complete them with the least amount of resources. This gave me lot of opportunity to innovate on the job," says Arvind of his stint at GE. Although Arvind was enjoying his work at GE, he wanted to gain international experience. So after four years at GE, he joined a small Singapore-based trading firm that promised him international exposure.
By now, the learn-and-earn bug in Arvind helped him draw an annual pay cheque of Rs 40 lakh (Rs 4 million). Soon, he recast his eyes on India -- the economy was booming and everyone wanted a piece of the growth pie.
"I did not want to miss the action," says Arvind. He took a huge cut in his salary and returned to India to MeritTrac in early 2006. "I was given the task of setting up a division and making it functional. There was no limit to what I could do," says Arvind.
Unlimited learning opportunities were guiding him again to higher earnings. Arvind's strategy to enter the crorepati club is simply this: accumulate a wide range of experience now for higher future earnings.
The six qualities we have gleaned from the stories of six individuals shed light on the behavioural basics that form the foundation of wealth creation.
Of course, you still have to adhere to the financial basics. Does this mean that wealth is guaranteed if you have these qualities? Unfortunately not, since no defined formula yields wealth. However, building blocks are clearly identifiable. Once you have them, you can combine them skilfully to immensely enhance your probability of hitting the bull's-eye.