Bombay – the Billionaire’s playground

Vidhi & I were having a discussion whether Anand Piramal (Mukesh’s future son-in-law) was a Sindhi. We made the observation that while there are many Sindhi millionaires there just aren’t as many billionaires.

Sindhis are a “fast community”; they love to spend what they have. It might be because they are rootless cosmopolitans but that’s not the thrust of the post.

The peculiar pedigree of the business class

India’s particular nexus of politicians, cricketers, Bollywood and billionaire industrialists is creating an elite that’s unlike any other in the world. The American elite seems much more segregated (Zuck didn’t marry an actress) since it’s also divided into different cities (Manhattan, LA, SF etc).

Bombay is becoming a billionaires playground and all eyes on it as flit from funeral to wedding (within the same family – Anand Ahuja seems a fascinating character and an intriguing choice for Sonam Kapoor).

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8 Replies to “Bombay – the Billionaire’s playground”

  1. Piramals are Marwaris. Gujaratis and Marwaris are quite close culturally (specific brand of Vaishnavism, food habits, outlook) and so not surprising to see the Ambani Piramal match. Expect to see more such matches in the future as India’s elite (and others) liberalizes. Punjabis and Sindhis are probably closer to each other culturally (religion, food habits) than to Gujaratis (G) and Marwaris (M), so more matches among them than with G or M.
    I don’t really see India’s elite really marrying Bollywood or cricketers in any numbers. Until very recently acting as a profession was not looked upon favorably and most respectable families would actively discourage their kids from taking up acting (especially true for G and M families). Sr. Ambani resisted Anil’s marriage to Tina for a long time before finally giving in.

    Ambanis hobnob a lot with Bollywood but I suspect that is because the traditional / old Billionaires probably thought of them as noveau riche and didn’t embrace them wholeheartedly at first (now ofcourse the Ambanis are much richer and more powerful than any of those old families.)..Even so, I don’t expect Ambanis to be ecstatic about their kids marrying Bollywood. The daughter is marrying a Marwari (presumably Vaishnav, just like the Ambanis) billionaire, and the son is marrying a Gujarati (Jain) billionaire..That’s the way it will be..

    Bollywood is not really elite elite – and why should they be? Entertainers have their place but can’t / shouldn’t be placed on a pedestal similar to industrialists, businessmen, scientists etc..
    Sonam Kapoor/Anand Ahuja are a sideshow – not even in the same league of “eliteness” (I just made up a word?) as the Ambanis or any of India’s billionaires (even the non famous ones).

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      1. Fair enough. I agree that Bollywood is very influential in terms of cultural impact in India – most of North / West India takes it cues from Bollywood on what is acceptable (clothing, sexual mores, dating, culture etc). Similarly top Bollywood stars exceed top politicians in terms of popularity or influence (Amitabh, Shahrukh etc)..
        Where I disagree is how “elite” they are compared to industrialists and businessmen. I would think that most upper middle class and above families still wouldn’t be super thrilled at their kids marrying Bollywood (especially outside of the top stars) for obvious reasons (Indian hangups etc).

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  2. To a casual observer it looks like the Indian elite (economically or otherwise) marry into equally rich families. For example, the above mentioned alliances. It doesn’t look like that in the U.S. Examples include, Bill gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. Is there a difference or this is just observational bias? Nevertheless, the say Indian parents have in who the kids marry seem to be astounding.

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    1. Most marriages in India, even among elites are somewhat facilitated by the parents. There is a good possibility that the Ambani daughter was officially or unofficially introduced to the Piramal scion by/ through the parents. If not that, then they have the equivalent of the European balls to introduce eligible elite youngsters to each other. At the very least the kids are raised with the expectation that they can only marry certain types of individuals (religion, economic status etc). In this, the elites are no different from the vast majority of Indian families.

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  3. hoipolloi – Are you not Indian or of Indian background? If not, it makes sense that this would be somewhat surprising to you..

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  4. Have there been instances of India’s business and political elite marrying members of the NRI elite in the West? Many of India’s business and political elites complete their higher education in the West with many opportunities to mingle with NRI elitee but I cannot think of an instance in which a member of India’s business and political elites married a son or daughter of America’s or Britain’s NRI elite.

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