Headline, March16, 2014



Marugappa Group of India,  -which ranks about 20th among Indian family groups by sales, is on the rise and has been flirting with the very biggest league for about a century plus.

It is unusual in a number of ways. It doesn't do ostentation.

"I wouldn't want to drive around in a Ferrari,"  says A Vellayan, its boss. It is from south India; the controlling family are  Chettiars,  a group of villages in Tamil Naidu, who in colonial times became financiers in South East Asia, particularly, Myanmar.

It has a reputation for clean governance  -"The best run firm in India," says a foreign fund manager. And it specialises in unglamorous industries, making everything from bicycles and abrasives to sugar and fertilizers.

Many other dynasties prefer  higher-profile  businesses such as property, infrastructure, and natural resources,  where cronyism is very rife.

So how profitable is the hard-harder-hardest more virtuous path?

Marugappa's  sales have grown by an annual compound rate of  19%  over the past five years, helped by acquisition:

They are now $4.1 billion plus. About  40%  of that comes from the group's home state of Tamil Nadu; that is half the level of two decades ago.

The firm has entered  higher-margin  areas close to its core businesses: It has opened hundreds of shops that sell agricultural goods to farmers, as well as outlets that sell its bicycles.

However, these are tricky industries, with volatile raw-material costs, cyclical revenues and, in the case of sugar and fertilisers, cranky regulatory regimes.

Compare all this with Godrej, another family group mainly in the more stable consumer-goods industry. It has a similar sales to Marugappa's but a market value of $6 billion

But before I go any farther, let me now return to the post:

Drawing on hundreds of interviews, Anita Raghavan  reconstructs how Mr Gupta fell into Mr Rajartanam's orbit:

At first, he was impressed by how much the billionaire gave to charity. Then he joined him in setting up a  private-equity fund. Finally, he was seduced into feeding him inside information about Goldman Sachs, a bank on whose board Mr Gupta sat.

He was convicted over two years ago and sentenced to two years behind bars. He remained free while appealing against the verdict.

The backdrop for this drama is the extraordinary success of Indian immigrants since 1965, when America started letting in more than a tiny handful.

The cause of this success is no mystery. Only the brainiest Indians have more than a lottery-ticket chance of obtaining an American Visa.

""An Indian in America is  10,000   times more likely to have a PhD than an Indian in India,  according an expert that Anita quotes.""

The author, an  Indian-American  born in Malaysia,  has a feel for the Indian Diaspora. Her book is packed with examples of Indian brainpower,  from the executives Mr Gupta advised to the prosecutor who skewered him.

She notes the power of immigrant networks,  for good and ill: most of Mr Rajaratnam's tips seem to have come from people of South Asian origin.

However,  she exaggerates the importance of her subjects:

She gushes that Mr Gupta   "cleared an eight-thousand mile path to the united States for hardworking Indian emigrants."   Hardly; there were plenty of other role models.

She quotes Ghurcharan Das,  a former boss of  Procter &  Gamble's Indian arm, lamenting that Mr Gupta:

"Has started the Indian story"......... Nonsense.

No reasonable person would judge a billion Indians, or even  3m  Indian-Americans,  simply because  two of them erred>

David Ben-Gurion's view,  also quoted by Anita Raghavan, is fairer. Israel's founder reckoned  that a nation  "has to have its own burglars and prostitutes".

Some day,  someone will write a great book about the rise of Indian-Americans.

In the meantime, this is a rollicking story of hubris and suffering it brings.

With respectful dedication to the Indian-Americans. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

With greater dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of India. See Ya all on !WOW! :

"' On The Side Of Time  "'

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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