Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'The Dream' come true : Young millionaire Gurbaksh Chahal

At 17, Gurbaksh Chahal was clueless about kissing girls and holding hands, but he was savvy enough to make $300,000 a month with an Internet advertising company he founded in his bedroom at his family's home in San Jose.
When he flew to Los Angeles on business, the young Sikh with a turban and a beard looked mature, but he was too young to rent a car to drive to his appointments, so he concealed his age by taking cabs to meet his clients.
When he sought venture capital from investors, he skirted questions about his experience (none!) and tried to avoid revealing that he'd dropped out: not from college, but from high school.
Now all of 26, he sits on top of two astounding achievements: He sold his first company, Click Agent, for $40 million in an all-stock merger in 2000, and his second, Blue Lithium, to Yahoo last year for $300 million.
This week, his autobiography, "The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions" (Palgrave MacMillan, 236 pages, $24.95) hit bookstores.
He appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Thursday. On Dec. 3, he'll be on Fox TV's "Secret Millionaire" series, in which wealthy participants live undercover among the poor, and then bestow $100,000 of their own money on deserving recipients.
Chahal has yet another TV show in the works, and a new Internet company that should launch in coming weeks.
While success like his is often attributed to luck, Chahal's story, like that of many immigrants, is more one of sacrifice. He wrote the book, he said, to show that it was years of hard work, persistence and faith, along with the support of his family, that brought his financial rewards - not chance.
"I did not want to write a Donald Trump book - 'Think big, kick ass,' " Chahal said in an interview last week in his sleek, white, modern penthouse in the Infinity Tower overlooking the Embarcadero and San Francisco Bay. "It's not easy to make money. It's a struggle, a journey. There's no '10 ways to success,' no pyramid scheme," he said. "I thought if I could write about my life and my journey and people could connect it with their own life, their own path, they could realize, 'If he can do it, so can I.' "
Chahal, who has soap-opera-star good looks, is one of four children in a family that immigrated from Punjab, India, in 1986 to escape political instability arising from the Sikh separatist movement.
In San Jose, his father worked as a postal employee and his mother was a nurse. Chahal had an older brother, two older sisters and a grandmother who came along. They lived in East San Jose, one of the city's lower-income neighborhoods. But they encouraged their children to go to college to become doctors or engineers.

Chahal, who was nicknamed "G" for Gurbakshi-Ji ("Ji" is a term of endearment) took an independent path. He was influenced by his father's pluck, his grandmother's optimistic spirit and an innate stubborn streak. He was teased as a child by neighborhood kids about his Sikh religion, questioned by a schoolteacher about his colorful clothing, and was once forced at knifepoint on a schoolyard basketball court to take his turban off.
"I can't. It's part of my religion," Chahal told them.
"You don't listen too good, do you?" (the boy) said, taking a knife out of his pocket. "Take that s- off right now!"
"I wanted to tell them, just as I'd wanted to tell everyone who had ever taunted me, that I was proud of my family, proud of my heritage and proud to be a Sikh - but I was just a kid, and I didn't know where to begin," he says. "Instead, I began to long for another kind of existence, where I was in charge."
His dream became a reality not long afterward. Chahal's father had started a side job, day trading on the computer, and was soon making more money than at his day job. Chahal, the youngest son, helped him research stocks, and together they watched business reports on TV and read the business pages every morning before work and school. Chahal came across Double Click, an Internet advertising business. They didn't invest, but it planted a seed in Chahal's mind.
When the stock market crashed in 1997 and his father lost nearly everything, Chahal decided he would try to help his family recover - and created his own company, Click Agent. It was a performance-based advertising company. Software could track when someone viewing a Web page clicked on an ad; an advertiser was charged each time that happened. The company that delivered the most clicks most consistently, he writes in his book, was going to get the most business.
Chahal doesn't write code, but he knew what he wanted the program to do, and hired a programmer who flew to San Jose from London to meet with him. He promised to pay the man $10,000 a month, even though he didn't have any startup cash. After the meeting, he went home and began cold-calling companies to find clients to place orders.
"Two days into it, I struck gold," Chahal says. "I found myself on the phone with a gentleman at the Left Field Advertising Agency in San Francisco. Left Field had a client, Infoseek, a search engine like Google, that was looking to increase traffic to its Web site. 'If you put up a $30,000 order, I can deliver traffic at a dollar a click,' I told the agency. In plain English, I was telling him that I could deliver at least 30,000 clicks.
" 'We'll get back to you,' I was told. The following morning, they contacted with an insertion order. Suddenly I was in business. That's how fast things moved."
Chahal hadn't told his parents, but soon he had to. He was making serious money. He couldn't open a bank account on his own because he was too young, and had enlisted his older brother, Taj, to open one and join him in the business venture.
Nirmal Chahal, the family's eldest daughter, recalled the night that Chahal told his father.
Dad freaks out
"He brought the bank statement and showed my father he was making money," she said by phone from Utah, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. "My dad's reaction was that he literally screamed. My mom came rushing from the kitchen, her hands still wet. My dad said, 'G is going to jail! He did something illegal!' They'd been working 20 years, double shifts, and had not had that kind of savings."
Once the family understood that it was a legitimate business, tempers calmed.
"Initially, it was tough to believe," his father, Avtar Chahal, said. "But because Gurbaksh believed in himself, I believed in him. I'm the proudest father in the world."
Chahal persuaded his father to let him drop out of high school. He opened an office in Santa Clara and hired staff, including two of his siblings. He sold the company to a competitor, Value Click, and a few years later started Blue Lithium.
He also cut his hair, shaved his beard and stopped wearing a turban because, he writes, he felt it was difficult to make investors comfortable with him when he looked less than mainstream.
At Value Click, he met Troy Baloca, who worked as director of sales. Baloca, now chief executive at eMediaVC Inc., says Chahal has been an inspiration to him since the day they met. Their brainstorming sessions often run past 2 a.m.
"Ever since I've known him, he's been a mentor for me - the way he carries himself, the way he talks to people," Baloca said. "It's not about age, because we'd go into board meetings together and he had a presence. I would call him a genius. He's a thinker. The word 'motivated' is not the word. The best word to describe him is 'determined.' Everything he does has rubbed off tenfold, not just on me but on others around him, too."
With his success, Chahal paid off the mortgage on the new home his parents had moved into in a better neighborhood. He bought cars for his brothers and sisters and took the family on vacations. He also went through a car phase, buying a Lamborghini, a Mercedes, a Ferrari, another Lamborghini and finally a small white Bentley, which he drives today.
He also started dating, something he'd never learned to do in high school. Money, he has found, has brought him a more ornamented life - bigger homes, designer clothes, better toys - but also complexity.

Down to earth

"Too superficial - in restaurants, it was all about who could have the bigger tab," said Chahal, a down-to-earth type who flies economy class and whose parents fed the kids Little Caesar's pizza on Monday nights because it was only $5 per pie.
"He still gets nervous on the first date," said Baloca, who enlisted Chahal to be best man at his wedding five years ago. "He'll call and say, 'I met this girl,' and we'll start talking. I'll ask, 'Where are you going to take her?' It's nice to know I can help him, too."
Chahal likes to go to Las Vegas because there nobody knows him as the millionaire wunderkind. He's just a guy from the Bay Area.
"When it comes to making friends, what it comes down to is finding people who don't need anything from me," Chahal said. "That's the test."
He's working on a new company called gWallet that he says will help people shop for bargains on the Internet, and hopes to launch it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, he believes that his book can serve as a self-help primer for just about anyone.
Not bad for a guy who spent his teen years skipping proms and movies in favor of toiling in front of a computer, munching on Twinkies.
"I've had an incredible 11 years," Chahal said. "I thought, if I had an opportunity to share it and if I could inspire people, why not?"
Those who are ambitious in life and wish to create or build something of their own and make a mark for Themselves will surely look up to this man who has gone against all odds and built a Colosseum of success and made it big in the world of Internet Advertising . You can check his Website 
I have also shared the link where you can download the book that he has written 'The Dream'

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Indian Hotelier Sonu Shivdasani believes in redefining luxury !!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sonu Shivdasani is probably the most successful upmarket Indian hotelier in the world – whom you have never heard of. His resorts in the Maldives – Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili – are rated as among the world’s finest luxury resorts with a celebrity clientele that takes in the likes of Madonna. His Six Senses spas have won every award you can think of. And his Evason group of hotels is fast emerging as a major player in the luxury business. By the end of next year or so, he will run 26 properties all over the world, making him a formidable force at the top end of the luxury business.

So why is so little heard of him in India?

Well, partly because his group has had very little to do with India – so far. And partly, because though he is Indian, his life has been spent abroad, the scion of one of the world’s leading NRI families.

Sonu is the youngest son of the late Indoo Shivdasani, the legendary businessman who became one of the world’s great experts on the Eurodollar market in the Sixties and created one of the largest Indian private fortunes in the world, at least partly because of his extensive investments in Nigeria.

Indoo Shivdasani died in the late 1970s, when Sonu was just 13. (Before dying he set up the Inlaks foundation which has sent so many young Indians to study abroad.) The young Sonu was sent off to Eton and then to Le Rosey in Switzerland before going up to Oxford to read English.

He had, as I seem to recall, something of a reputation of a slightly spoilt, slightly wild child – which he denies completely now – and it was expected that, as he settled down, he would join his brother Azad in managing the family’s global portfolio of businesses from Geneva to Lagos and London.

And certainly, Sonu did do that for two years but by then his life had already began to change. In 1986, when he was studying for his Mods (or first year exams) at Oxford, his sister Bina Sella di Monteluce (the surname came from her Italian husband) invited him to join her on the family yacht in the south of France, for the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.

It was here that he met Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model, who would later become his wife. And it was probably from this point on that his life began to change.

Sonu and Eva starting going out while he was still at Oxford and she travelled the world on modelling assignments. While, given his background (yachts in the South of France, Eton, homes in four continents, etc.) Sonu was no stranger to conventional luxury, he was not used to the kinds of experiences that Eva had enjoyed during her travels.

While she had also seen a fair amount of the good life, she was already interested – long before it became fashionable – in the environment. When Sonu took her to Goa for a holiday in 1987, she complained that the hotel was dumping all its sewage into the bay and made it clear that she did not like ecologically irresponsible resorts.

She took him, instead, to the Maldives which she knew from modelling assignments.

In the 1980s, the Maldives was a group destination. Developers built hotels to the specifications of tour operators who then guaranteed them a certain level of business over the next few years.

 Consequently, there were no deluxe hotels and the country made little effort to market itself.

 But Sonu recognised that Eva was right when she said that the Maldives was a very special place – hundreds  of small coral islands surrounded by the cleanest water in the world, the sea teeming with exotic fish and bright blue skies.

 As you would expect of a very rich young man with a global bent of mind, Sonu decided to build a  house there. And the only way he could do this was by buying a small island for himself. (This is less grand than it may sound, islands can be tiny in the Maldives.)

But even that wasn’t easy to do. The government did auction islands but they went to hotel companies. Till then, the Maldivian economy had survived on the basis of exports of dried tuna to Sri Lanka. Now tourism had started to increase revenues and create jobs and the government was not going to waste islands on which hotels could possibly be located by selling them to rich young men for use as private residences.

The answer was obvious. Sonu and Eva would bid for an island at auction, would build a hotel on the property and would also build a home on the non-hotel part of the island.

Except that they failed to win anything at the government’s auctions. So eventually, they leased an island from the country’s Finance Minister. There had been a hotel on the property but it had failed because the boat journey from the airport (on an island far away) to the hotel was much too long.

Initially, Sonu and Eva had not necessarily intended to run the hotel themselves. They knew nothing about the hotel business and in any case, were only able to secure bank funding to build the property if they declared that a professional hotel company would run the show.

The process of getting the money together took time. The Shivdasanis had ambitious plans and wanted to build a resort that was not only luxurious but also seemed as though it belonged on the island. So there would be no concrete structures, no plastic and only natural materials and fabrics. Then, there was the problem of access. The island was a long way from the airport. The only way they could bring in guests was by helicopter which further added to the costs. Nobody would pay those prices for the Maldives, they were told.

Sonu’s mother, Lakshmi, was especially concerned about the viability of her son’s first business project. Sonu’s sister Bina was best friends with Namita Panjabi (then not yet the famous restaurateur she is today) and Lakshmi implored Namita’s sister Camellia (then executive director of the Taj Group) to knock some sense into him.

Camellia had a proposal. Sonu could build the resort but the Taj would run it for him. After all, the Taj already ran two hotels in the Maldives. But Sonu did not think much of the two downmarket hotels the Taj ran in those days. (Neither did the Taj, as it turns out. It now runs two upmarket hotels in the Maldives.) So he took Lakshmi to see them. His mother saw his point.

"When the rich already have everything the only way you can get their attention is through intelligence."
Other negotiations with Aman and other chains failed as, coincidentally, did a Bangkok-based hotel management company called Pavilion management in which Sonu had an investment. So finally, Sonu took over Pavilion completely, found the funding from Thai banks and in 1995 Soneva Fushi opened to a sceptical world.

This was a time when luxury was just beginning to take off. Amanpuri had opened in Phuket to great acclaim and had demonstrated that there was room for hotels that charged very high prices. Also in Phuket, the Banyan Tree with its pool villas was throwing open its doors. The Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay where every villa had a pool was in the works; the Aman group had already changed the profile of the Bali market.

So, in that sense, Sonu’s timing was right. Eva and he promoted the resort relentlessly, especially in the British press and some would say that the British love affair with the Maldives was at least partly a consequence of their efforts.

Within months, Soneva Fushi was getting room rates that were double those of every other hotel in the Maldives and within a year, every single hotel chain of consequence was planning an upmarket hotel in the Maldives.

I asked Sonu if it was not intimidating to sink so much time and money into a business about which he knew nothing. Did he never have any doubts about challenging the status quo? How was he so sure that travellers would pay such high rates for the Maldives? And where did he find the confidence to design a hotel to Eva and his specifications, telling hotel industry professionals how to do the jobs they believed they had already been trained to do?

The question took him by surprise. And though he answered that it had to do with passion etc., I had the distinct impression that he never had any doubts about the validity of his vision.

Clearly, he was right to challenge all the old rules because he kept breaking the mould. He built the first spa in the Maldives (now an essential part of every Maldivian hotel), introduced gourmet dining and fine wines (at Soneva Fushi, you enjoy nature while sipping a first growth) and was ready to expand.

As with all expansions, it began slowly. Sonu and Eva were approached about taking over a property in Vietnam. It had been commissioned by a developer who had run over budget, had been taken over by one of the investing financial institutions and now needed an operator.

While it could not be run the same way as Soneva Fushi – it had been designed differently – it nevertheless represented an opportunity to translate some of the concepts that had been developed in the Maldives.

 The success of that resort led to other offers, including a second hotel in the Maldives (Soneva Gili) and more openings in Asia. Sonu and Eva looked carefully at each opportunity before deciding whether it fit in with their conception of the group.

But the opportunities kept coming and over the last few years, the chain that Eva and Sonu built almost as an after-thought has became among the world’s leading operators of luxury resorts. There’s a new, much-praised, Soneva in Thailand and their other brands, Evason and Six Senses can now be found all over the world.

I asked Sonu how he managed the growth of the chain. The answer seemed to be that he had developed three distinctive brands, each with its own values and appeal.

Soneva remains a name used for top-end resorts and though Sonu does not use the parallel himself, the comparison most often made is with Aman Resorts. Just as Aman became the destination of choice for well-heeled, slightly jaded travellers who had tired of the standard luxury hotel experience and wanted something different over the last decade, so the Sonevas seem set to occupy a similar place over the next decade.

There are other parallels with Aman, among them the high proportion of repeat guests. Just as Aman has its Aman junkies, so Sonu has his Soneva club consisting of people who visit his resorts again and again, often making new friends at the hotels and networking with fellow millionaires.

But the best-known of the brands is probably Six Senses because the company operates stand-alone spas under that name. There are Six Senses hotels with their own spas but there are also Six Senses resorts at other people’s hotels – at the Ritz Carltons in Europe, for instance – and at places where you might be surprised to find them: at the Etihad Airlines First Class Lounge.

There are also the Evason hotels. Most of them are conversions, consisting either of properties that the group took over while they were under construction or existing hotels that have been renovated and refurbished to the group’s standards.

Sonu’s strategy is to develop his resorts in clusters. He argues that it makes less sense to have a chain that is far-flung with say, one property in Venezuela and another in Vietnam. It makes more sense to develop a cluster of resorts in one area and to then develop another cluster.

So far, the group has developed two clusters: south-east Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Yunnan province in China) and the Indian Ocean (Maldives and Sri Lanka with a project on the Andaman Islands in the works). There have been forays into the Middle East (a resort opened in Jordan recently) and this will now be a priority area. Among other clusters that Sonu is looking at are: Morocco, Brazil, Spain and Portugal and the Adriatic.

The stand-alone spas, of course, can exist outside of those clusters and new spas are scheduled to open in such places as Gstaad and Burgenstock in Switzerland.

Looking at Sonu’s list of projects in the pipeline, it is clear that the plans are ambitious. There are 11 projects in the Americas (including a Soneva in the Bahamas), six in Europe and the Middle East and two in China. He had hoped to open a Six Senses spa at Delhi’s Imperial but the plan fell apart when the hotel could not get permission from the urban authorities. Even so, he is optimistic about finally entering India through projects in the Andamans and in Maharashtra.

Like most groups in the luxury sector, Six Senses was hit by the global recession but now the guests are returning and business is looking up.

Sonu maintains a peripatetic lifestyle while managing his companies. Given that he got into the business only because he wanted to build a house in the Maldives, he insists on spending four-and-a-half months every year at his home on the same island as Soneva Fushi. (“Not enough,” he says.)

The company’s head office is in Bangkok so Eva and he spend several months of the year in a service apartment in Sukhumvit. (They have not been able to find the time to buy and decorate a house.) Strangely, he spends very little time in England, the country he grew up in, perhaps because it has little relevance to his business (though Brits constitute a large proportion of the guests at the Sonevas). He keeps in touch with how the business is faring through daily conference calls and e-mails and seems able to remain on top of things even when he is diving in the Maldives.

Where he will go next is anybody’s guess – the hotel business is a high-risk enterprise especially at  this exalted level. But he seems confident and secure that his expansion is on track.

His success so far has been based less on the bricks and mortar business of building hotels but on a more cerebral attitude to an old business. As he says, he believes in intelligent luxury. The old ideas about what luxury should be (huge villas, fancy bathroom fittings, non-stop champagne on ice, etc.) are dying as a consequence of the global affluence of the last decades. People have had enough of excess and opulence. They are looking for something different and special.

The basis of Six Senses, Evason and Soneva is his belief that hoteliers must challenge the old ways, must go against the grain and must find ways of redefining luxury. For a rich man who lives in London or New York, he says, luxury does not consist merely of more food and wine. When such a person comes to a resort he wants an experience that is entirely unlike the life he has left behind.

To be able to get away from a New York winter and walk around barefoot in the Maldivian sun is luxury. To be able to choose the leaves you want so that they can be plucked for your salad is luxury. To eat dinner on a sandbank with only ocean around for miles is luxury.

It is a philosophy that has worked because it has turned many conventional conceptions of luxury on their head. When the rich already have everything the only way you can get their attention is through intelligence.

Amitabh Bachchan's article on Bollywood

With every passing year, I am struck by how fascinating this whole industry, unfortunately called Bollywood, has become.Six decades ago, mainstream Indian cinema was not considered intellectual enough. Today it has become a parallel culture.

We were criticized, but the very things we were criticized and ridiculed for — the content and the song
 and dance routine, which were seen as very over-the-top —are our USP now. It is truly marvellous to see how this industry has grown and how it will continue to grow.

Today, we are an industry, and interestingly, there is no dearth of funds .And the reach! I was in Paris recently, walking in Montmartre. Near the church, I heard a voice call out ‘Vijay’. I turned and saw a man who did not look like an Indian.

He started singing
 a song from one of my films. I was thrilled,  and even more so when I saw him enacting the coin-tossing scene from Sholay . There are so many countries in the world that watch our films, which we know nothing about: Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, South  Africa!

I myself have good memories of films, growing up. Cinema was this great big fantasy in our lives. But in our early years, cinema was practically taboo for a lot of us.As children from good homes and respectable families, we weren’t even allowed to mix with anything associated with films.

Movies were first vetted by parents and elders before we could see them and then, what were allowed were films with a message, like Jagriti, which was a film about nationalism.My father was more studies oriented, generally opposed to any kind of extra-curricular activities. My mother was just the opposite — she encouraged us to go out and see plays.

When I moved to boarding school, we used to have a film over the weekend in the common hall and I saw a lot of the English classics — from Dickens and so on.
It was only when I came to Delhi University, and became a bit more independent that I saw a lot of Hindi films
, with Dev Anand, Dilip sa’ab and so on. I was a great admirer of Dilip sa’ab then and I still am.

In Calcutta, where I worked, I read an ad inviting aspirants to a contest for budding actors conducted by a film magazine. I applied, but got rejected in the preliminaries itself.

My mother, who knew Nargisji told her about my interest in films and she organised a screen test for me in Mumbai. Soon after that, I chucked up my job and moved to Mumbai.I just wanted to be an actor in the film industry
, no matter what. So whatever came my way, I just took it. It’s not widely known that I was a junior artist in a Shashi Kapoor film which was made by Merchant-Ivory — one in a crowd at his cremation scene.

Because his family knew mine through my father and through Raj Kapoor, Shashi was very upset when he saw me there. He said, what are you doing working as an extra, you can’t do that, get out of here. The scene by the way was cut from the film.

Then I started getting roles and took whatever came my way. People ask me if I worked towards building up the “Angry Young Man” persona, but it was not like that at all.The media made me conscious about this angry young man, a crusader or vigilante who single-handedly fights the establishment. As far I was concerned, it was just a role.

I was not cherry-picking my roles, but I was careful in choosing my directors or my writers; rather I was fortunate that they picked me up to do films like Zanjeer, Deewar.

I firmly believe that films reflect what is happening in society. I once asked Salim-Javed why they wrote those roles and they said that it was the mood of the times. It was the time of the Emergency, it was a time when people felt that the system was not delivering, therefore you needed a man to stand up to it and take it on single-handedly.

In the early 1990s I took a deliberate sabbatical. I was out of politics where I accepted I had failed. I came back to cinema, started working, and then just thought that I needed to take a break.

I still don’t know what motivated me to do that but now that I look back, I think doing so was a mistake. When I did want to come back, in ‘95 or so, I discovered that a lot of water had flown under the bridge. Public memory is short.

People’s tastes had undergone a sea-change during that period and what we had been living with in the ‘80s was no longer relevant.

The vigilante, the angry young man had been overtaken by the young romantic. Anger and violence against the establishment were passé almost; the people had had enough of that. It was the age of the youth that wanted to enjoy life; singing, dancing.

Intense love stories were in. The Angry Young Man suddenly became irrelevant, but my producers still wanted me to do those roles. Every film that continued that old theme like Mrityudaata, for example, was a colossal failure.

I had to accept that times had changed and that I couldn’t possibly play the kind of men I was playing earlier on. So I switched to character roles and fortunately they worked, some of them.

In films like, say, Baghban , or Aks or Black and some of Karan Johar ‘s films, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, I was playing my age. All these characters gave me the persona of the patriarch, a kind of protector.

The industry has changed a lot. The biggest change in our film industry I have seen is of speed —speed of thinking, creativity, everything.

There is a qualitative difference in the way our films were presented and the way they look now. Take for example the editing. In the ‘50s, the editing was slow — they had the entire antara of a song in just one shot.

Even in the 1970s, when I did the drunken scene in Amar, Akbar, Anthony, it was in one shot. Today it would be cut into much shorter bits. I wonder if it would even be relevant today.

Now it would look a little over the top, too played out. Perhaps getting drunk is not such a big thing…may be if you are on drugs, or on ecstasy, maybe that would be interesting.

The industry is being criticised for apparently wooing only NRIs, but I don’t think it is correct to say we are driven by their nostalgia.

A lot of NRI families actually send their children out to see Hindi moves just so that they learn to speak the language.

But I do think it is frightening that a lot of the producers are becoming very careless and negligent about India’s interiors and they are quite satisfied with their collections that come from the cities.

Now there is massive interest in Indian cinema everywhere. The Americans have destroyed other cinemas, including in Europe. I believe attempts are being made to do the same here. This is where Indian cinema can hold its own.

Our traditions and our culture go back a long way. We have a 5000-year-old history as opposed to America’s 235 years.

And I believe that no matter how many invasions or how many different cultures may have come into our country and invaded us, we still have always maintained our culture. Our films have digressed from our basic ethos, our basic traditions and cultures.

Every time we have made a film that touches that basic nerve, we have succeeded, here and elsewhere. I believe we will continue doing so

Story of Lalit modi : IPL commissioner and founder

Who’s this man?
It is not just about his car — it is all about who and what Lalit Modi is.No matter how convincingly father Krishan Kumar Modi argued against it, college-going Lalit wouldn’t budge an inch from his demand for a Mercedes. K.K. Modi, the chairman of the Rs 4000-crore Modi Enterprises, which owns a number of companies including the tobacco giant Godfrey Phillips, and his wife, Bina, were with their son to help him settle down as an undergraduate student in the United States in the 80s. When Lalit wanted a car, his father gave him $5000 and asked him to pick up an inexpensive one. Instead, Lalit used the money to pay the first instalment for a brand new Merc.
It was a jolt to the premier business family — Lalit was the first in the Modi clan to buy a car in instalments.
“The problem with Lalit is that once he decides on something, nothing on earth can make him change his mind,” says the 69-year-old father, sitting in his plush villa in Delhi’s Maharani Bagh.
Some were hoping that Lalit Modi, 45, would change his mind about moving his baby, the Indian Premier League (IPL), out of India this season. But faced with a clash of schedules between the ongoing general elections and the IPL matches, and the resultant security concerns, he coolly took the game to South Africa. Modi, one of the vice-presidents of the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI), was unconcerned about the elections and suggestions that the IPL schedules be changed. The series started with a bang yesterday.

His friends say he has a mulish streak in him. But it’s this never-say-die spirit that has largely made Lalit Modi what he is today — a shrewd negotiator, a marketing whiz and one of the men behind the success of the BCCI.
But who is Lalit Modi? Little is known about the man who cocked a snook at the government. What’s known widely is that he conceived the IPL — a 20-over cricket game that has become wildly popular ever since its start in India last year. Lalit Modi hasn’t responded to the questions or the reminders The Telegraph emailed him, but insiders explain how it all happened.

“He saw cricket was played only for a month in India and realised there was not much to show on television despite it being the most popular game in the country. So, he wanted a format with foreign and Indian players that would be played through the year, spinning money for television networks and its advertisers,” says a source.
Modi’s gamble worked. But then the man has always had a reckless streak in him. In his early teens, he zipped through the roads of New Delhi in his family car without a driving licence, much to his parents’ concern. Keen to go to the US for higher studies, he skipped his school-leaving examination in India. Since he was no longer eligible for any of the Indian colleges, he figured this was one way to make his reluctant parents send him to the US. To his credit, he had scored well in SAT, or the Scholastic Aptitude Test, essential for admission to American colleges.
Modi’s life is the stuff of racy fiction. As a student at Duke University, he got sucked into the world of drugs, winding up with charges of possessing drugs, kidnapping and assault. “It was very upsetting but we stood by him and helped him come out of it,” says his father.
But it’s clearly a subject the family would like to bury. “I don’t know why anyone needs to dig into his past, which has no bearings on him now,” says an annoyed Charu Modi Bhartia, Lalit’s sister who runs a private university in Delhi in collaboration with an American institute.
Charu argues that Lalit had acted under peer pressure. “These are the normal things kids do in colleges to fit in. But in Lalit’s case, it was blown out of proportion because of the famous family name,” she says, sitting in her farm house on the outskirts of Delhi. At 46, Charu is the protective eldest of the three Modi siblings. The youngest, Samir, 37, runs a retail chain called 24X7, a direct marketing venture called Modicare and ColorBar Cosmetics Private Limited, all under the Modi Enterprise.

But the story that rocked his family and friends was Lalit’s unconventional love affair. While he was still a student in the US, he fell in love with a married woman called Minal, who was his mother’s friend. She was nine years his senior and was then living in London with her family. Minal got a divorce, and she and Lalit were married in Mumbai despite his family’s initial disapproval.
“We tried to dissuade him. But he made it clear that he would marry only this friend of my wife, no one else,” says K.K. Modi. He says the family finally relented and attended his marriage.
His past was, by all accounts, quite a tumultuous one. No one in the family remembers exactly how many schools Lalit had changed before he moved to the US. Lalit hated life in boarding schools in Shimla and Nainital. Charu still remembers the “ingenious” way — though she declines to spell out the details — Lalit ran away from Bishop Cotton School in Shimla.

Lalit was not “bookish”, friends say, but neither was he greatly interested in sports. A childhood friend recalls he played cricket as a student but was more interested in football and tennis. “As far as I remember, Pele and Bjorn Borg were his sporting heroes, not any cricketer,” he says.
Cricket came into his life much later when he started distributing ESPN as part of a joint venture he floated with Walt Disney after a short stint in the family’s textile unit in Mumbai. Disney then owned ESPN. “He spurred ESPN to get into cricket despite the American company’s initial reservations,” says K.K. Modi.
It is, however, another story that Rupert Murdoch’s STAR network later formed ESPN STAR sports with Walt Disney and the Modis lost their distribution rights in India. Murdoch had met Lalit and his father in the Fox Studio in Los Angeles with the proposal of acquiring ESPN for the media tycoon was then “not on talking terms” with Disney, a Modi family source says. No wonder Lalit Modi counts Murdoch’s son, James, among his friends.
Eventually, the family sold off the joint venture, WD Consumer Products Limited, to Walt Disney for Rs 60 crore, making a cool profit of more than Rs 59 crore against an investment of Rs 50 lakh or so. Modi Entertainment now distributes Fashion TV in the country.

But by then, Lalit, whose friends include actor Shah Rukh Khan, had got a taste of the cash-rich, glamour-studded world of cricket. His father says Lalit decided to get into the country’s cricket administration when the Jagmohan Dalmiya-led BCCI “blocked” his efforts at starting a year-round, limited-over cricket league.
Dalmiya refused to talk about Modi, whom he had earlier accused of hounding him with “false and fabricated” cases after he lost the BCCI election a few years ago.
But Lalit had begun to find a place for himself in the cricket administration.
In his bid to enter the BCCI, he bagged the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) in a 2005 election of the state body, using a controversial government ordinance (later made into law) that took away the voting rights of 59 RCA members and allowed only 32 district cricket associations to vote. Only office-bearers of state cricket associations can contest the BCCI elections.
“It was grossly unfair to individual RCA members but Lalit Modi used his clout with the then chief minister (Vasundhara Raje) to bring about this ordinance and the subsequent law to ensure his victory,” says present RCA secretary Ashok Ohri. He says many of the individual members were loyal to the rival camp, headed by former BCCI treasurer Kishore Rungta, a Modi critic. “It was morally and ethically wrong,” adds Rungta, who filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the act. The case is pending.

One of Modi’s most powerful backers is Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar. Though few know for sure how the two came together, sources say former BCCI president I.S. Bindra may have played a part in it. Bindra is the president of the Punjab Cricket Association, while Modi is its vice-president. “They are very close and consult each other all the time,” the sources say.
A BCCI insider says Modi and Pawar were “united in their intense dislike” for Dalmiya, who had aborted Pawar’s bid to enter the BCCI in 2004 by backing Ranbir Singh Mahendra. “They made a common cause and went after Joguda (Dalmiya’s nickname),” says a Dalmiya confidant.
Pawar took to Modi’s idea for IPL almost instantly and saw it as a money-spinner for the BCCI. “Their opposition to Dalmiya was the intial glue that held them together, but it has now been cemented because of the success of IPL,” he says.
Figures are hard to come by. But a BCCI source says the success of IPL has jacked up BCCI revenue beyond $ 1 billion. Modi himself is worth millions. He is on the board of all Modi Enterprise companies and actively involved in the running of blue-chip Godfrey Phillips and Modi Entertainment.
His in-your-face style rankles critics. But Modi is anything but a wallflower. He still drives a Mercedes, wears his Armanis and likes to spend his New Year’s Eves at Amanpuri in Phuket, listed by the American Conde Nast Traveler magazine as one of the world’s best resorts.

A source says he had almost talked Hollywood star Russell Crowe into buying an IPL team, using his old Walt Disney contacts. Crowe apparently got cold feet after the prices of IPL team soared.
Modi is businesslike, generous with money but not with time. “His words are clipped and he can be abrupt at times, almost to the point of being rude,” says a former RAC office bearer. “He wants you to be on the ball all the time and wants tomorrow’s things done yesterday.”
The IPL boss was in the news again last year when his critics called him a “super chief minister” because of his closeness to Vasundhara Raje, who is some 10 years older than him. Family sources point out the Modis’ ties with the Gwalior royal family go back a long way. Lalit’s grandmother and Vasundhara Raje’s mother were close friends and devotees of spiritual leader Anandamoyee Ma.
The anti-Modi camp says the vegetarian and teetotaller Modi was a powerful entity in the former Raje government. “There was always a long line of IAS and IPS officers outside his plush suite in a five star hotel whenever he came to Jaipur,” says Anil Shekhawat, general secretary of the Samajwadi Party in Rajasthan.
The Congress, too, pointed a finger at Modi, accusing him of being behind several lucrative land deals signed in the BJP regime during its November 2008 poll campaign, a charge both Modi and the BJP have publicly denied. “Who is Lalit Modi?” reads a Congress poll ad, seeking to make a political issue of him.
Barely four months after the BJP lost Rajasthan to the Congress, the Lalit Modi group tasted defeat in the March 1 election to the state cricket association, with Sanjay Dixit, a senior IAS officer, replacing him as the RCA president.
“There was tremendous political pressure to remove him in the last election,” says Jaipur Cricket Association president B. R. Soni, who was deputy president of the Modi-headed RCA.

Raje was unavailable for comment. BJP state president Om Mathur too refused to speak on the Opposition charges that Modi had emerged as the de facto chief minister in the Raje regime. “All I will say is that we lost the assembly election not because of Lalit Modi but because of the rebel candidates who cut into our votes,” Mathur says.
Modi loyalists say as RCA president, he spent some Rs 20 crore building cricket infrastructure, turning Jaipur’s once-decrepit Sawai Mansingh Stadium into one of the best in the country with two new blocks, media rooms and galleries.
“Lalit Modi is a man with vision. Earlier, there was nothing at this stadium. He has built everything,” says former Rajasthan Ranji player Shamsher Singh, who was operations manager of the Rajasthan Royal team.
Modi spent Rs 7 crore building a state-of-the art cricket academy, complete with 28-appointed rooms, a gym, a restaurant, two conference halls and a swimming pool. RCA officials say it was contracted for three years to a private company, which acts as a service provider and pays the RCA Rs 7 lakh a year.
“It’s nothing short of a scandal. We own this academy but we have had to pay this service provider Rs 1800 per room per day if our cricketers stay there,” says RCA secretary Ohri. The RCA has now appointed a four-member committee, headed by an IAS officer, to probe the alleged financial irregularities during the Modi regime.

Samajwadi Party’s Shekhawat, a member of the inquiry committee and a chartered accountant, says the report will be submitted in three months. “There will be more surprises for Mr Modi,” he says.
But when it comes to money for cricket, he doesn’t hesitate. “If you ask for Rs 2 lakh to do something, he will give you Rs 5 lakh,” says Soni. The RCA secretary agrees. “He is always generous with money and in each of the few weddings that he attended in Jaipur in the last few years, he gifted the newly-weds Rs 1 lakh or more,” says Ohri.
But it’s not all well with the present committee either. Within a month of the election, an unseemly fight has broken out between RCA president Dixit and Ohri over sharing of power. “We drove Modi out of the RCA because of certain compulsions but now things are going back to square one,” the RCA secretary acknowledges.
And that could only spell good news for Modi, who has publicly expressed his desire to return to the helm of the Rajasthan cricket body. Both his backers and detractors say that Modi never takes no for an answer.
At the moment, Modi — a self-confessed family man who lives in his Juhu bungalow with his son Ruchir and daughters Aliya and Karishma (who is from his wife’s previous marriage) —is possibly going through the most difficult phase in his life. As he remains busy in South Africa overseeing the IPL, Minal, who has acted as an anchor in his life, is in the United States, undergoing treatment for cancer.
But Modi soldiers on. When he is down, a family source says, Lalit Modi draws strength from Robert Frost’s famous line: “I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep.”

Infosys : the Start-up Story

How a few youngsters’ dream and determination to prove themselves gave rise to one of the most respected Indian I.T companies.

Timeline: In 1981, IBM in US launches its first PC which uses Microsoft Software MS DOS and the term INTERNET first mentioned and in Pune July1981, on a day between monsoon and winter 7 youngsters came together with just 10,000 rupees to give shape to an idea that in 28 years became one of the most respected I.T companies in world. They were N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, N.S. Raghavan, Kris Gopalakrishnan, S. D. Shibulal, K. Dinesh and Ashok Arora. “Seven of us met in 1981 to start something new in India and we were looking out for the global opportunities. We came together because we were sold on the idea and were passionate about the it” says Kris Gopalakrishnan. This was by no means N.R. Narayana Murthy’s first entrepreneurial venture. The first attempt was a company called Softronics, an IT consulting firm in 1976. The lacks of response by the domestic market lead to its closure, and he joined Patani Computers. When the company was incorporated in July 1981 Murthy did not become employee Number one rather it was N.S. Raghavan, because Murthy was committed to finish two projects for Patani and it was only in March 1982 that he was able to join the company.

India in the early 80’s was by no means a fertile ground for entrepreneurship ventures, sweeping liberalising reforms were a decade away and the company which was registered as a proprietary company at a co-founders house did not even have a computer for 2 years as the red tape needed to acquire a computer at that time was numerous. Archaic import restrictions limited the company’s ability to bring crucial equipment into the country. This new company had not only been through the stock problems faced by a young company but also the additional problems of dealing in an area which is relatively unknown in the country. The journey from struggling start-up to multibillion-dollar multinational offers several lessons for entrepreneurs, Gopalakrishnan says Two essential leadership traits are courage and visions — which keep the entrepreneur and employees focused not just on short-term goals, but also on aspirations. While today we are dazzled by stories of tech firms minting overnight millionaires, Gopalakrishnan said that for Infosys, it was a rocky road at the start. “Definitely, the initial years were quite difficult.”

The Early Trials & Failures

In 1983, for instance, the company could not get venture capital or bank financing to expand, largely because very few investors understood the business or its potential. There were no venture capital firms then to pump investment into the company, and India had many currency restrictions. Eventually, the government provided some funding for growth. Despite some successes, by 1989 the Infosys founders felt they were just spinning their wheels. Their peers outside the business were getting on with their lives, while Gopalakrishnan and his partners had devoted eight years to their vision and seemingly had “nothing to show for it…. We almost gave up.” Through the 1980s, there were few big contracts. The founders kept their salaries low, Nandan Nilekani, the company’s Ex-Chief Executive, who in the early days would share a scooter with co-founder S.D. Shibulal as they drove around Bangalore looking for business.

One of Infosys’ early go-to-market vehicles was a joint venture with KSA, KSA-Infosys. And Kris, who spent much of the 1980s in the US, was Infosys’ face in the joint venture. The joint venture collapsed in 1989.Infosys almost wound up in 1989. “Our peers had cars and houses,” to quote Kris from an older interview referring to one reason for what he calls “a major introspection” that happened in 1989. “And we had nothing.” The JV with KSA collapsed in that year. Arora, too, decided to leave that year. Gopalakrishnan and his colleagues began to think “things will change.” Things did certainly change. The change was heralded by massive policy reform in India, business exploded during the 1990s, not only for Infosys but for the whole of Indian industry and leading up to Infosys’ listing on the NASDAQ. This was a ‘first’ for an Indian company and one of the many firsts for Infosys. In 2002, Business World called Infosys “India’s Most Respected Company.”

One thing the Infosys founders had on their side in 1981 was youth. Kris says ” We were 25 when we started Infosys, when you are young that is the right time to take risk because as you grow old responsibilities burden up and you don’t want to take the risk built, today being a youth you can afford to take risk” At the company’s outset, “there was no expectation; we had nothing to lose.” But, he said, the relative stability and comforts of having a job begin to erode the adventurous spirit required for successful entrepreneurship. Kris is very excited about the entrepreneurship wave in the colleges-“I am quite pleased with the great interest that entrepreneurship is generating in various campus and students I meet. They are ready to try their hand at that.” He was happy about the initiatives taken by Techno Park TBI “Technopark incubator helps you with the challenge and face the situation on your own but having people who can mentor you in various aspects will give you an advantage.”

This was one advantage the founding members of Infosys never had. They did not know what to expect, but Gopalakrishnan and his fellow co-founders set the bar high for themselves as they wanted to build a globally respected corporation. The mission statement was “aspiration” but the effect of committing to such a declaration was that every consideration, decision and action of each employee in the company has been calibrated and compared to world class standards. That explains why the company made its global initial public offering on the United States’ NASDAQ stock exchange in 1999.Infosys complies with the requirements of the stringent Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, even though as an Indian company, it doesn’t have to. “To become a global company, we must go up with the best companies in the world.” Moves like the NASDAQ IPO had motives beyond raising capital. They raise the company’s profile and by offering transparency, demonstrate that it is possible to run a business legally and ethically in India. Infosys’ culture is hardly typical of India, a country where businesses long thrived on government protection and tax manipulation and where the corporate world was dominated by a tiny clique of family-owned conglomerates.

The Change from 1989

Most people attribute Infosys’ success to its superior planning process. Well, this started in 1989. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near as sophisticated as what they do now but it started then. The first plan gave the founders who had just come off a gut-wrenching discussion on whether to wind up or not, several immediate objectives. The first was the decision to build a campus. The second was the decision to make an initial public offering. The IPO in the Indian market at that time was not an easy thing to achieve. For this to take place the financial reforms had to happen. Infosys wanted to issue its shares at a premium. Until the early 1990s, issue-pricing was decided by the Controller of Capital Issues. The CCI decided that Infosys could make an issue at a premium of Re 1 (issue price: Rs 11). The company demurred. Then, Manmohan Singh as the then Finance minister abolished the post of CCI in the first wave of economic reforms and Infosys went ahead with an issue (in February 1993) at a premium of Rs 86 (issue price: Rs 96).The market may love Infosys today, but most brokers thought the company was just another fly-by-night operator in the 1990s.Many market player at that time was not sure to true this new company which was entering the market at such an high rate. Infosys’ promoters are rich today because of a decision they took early in the company’s existence. Infosys decided to pay dividends from day one, pay taxes on the dividend they received, and re-invest the entire sum as equity in the business. The Infosys IPO almost devolved. Murthy claims that the issue was subscribed 1.06 times, and it was, but fact is, it almost didn’t go through. Eventually Vallabh Bhansali’s Enam Financial Consultants, the lead manager (along with SBI Capital Markets), had to push it through. Among the people who struck rich include Nilekani’s quiz-club members and IIT batchmates. Nilekani was a quizzer in college and was part of an informal group that would meet and quiz in Bangalore.

An element of Infosys’ operational excellence is its Global Delivery Model, based on doing work where it adds most value – that is, utilizing the best global resources with the lowest associated cost and at the highest possible quality. Reliable telecom infrastructure and India’s skilled manpower allowed most of the work to be conducted offshore. Onsite aspects of the project are limited to those aspects requiring market proximity and customer interaction.

Customer satisfaction is another key to Infosys’ breakneck rate of profitable growth. The company has successfully completed more than 20,000 projects with a 99.998% error-free record during their initial 23 years. This recipe for success would now be considered a radical innovation in the software industry: zero-defect code. Even today, the accepted way to code is to write a software, then debug it. In the company’s early years, Murthy and Dinesh and Shibulal and Kris taught recruits how to write code without errors. As the result of such a radical innovation, Infosys’ projects delivered on time and on budget percentage was almost three times more than the industry average of 30%. Such high customer satisfaction rates have resulted in 95% of clients coming back to Infosys for further projects.

Building on such exceptional customer satisfaction, Infosys proactively seeks to expand the scope of the work it does with existing clients, further fuelling revenue growth. Infosys fully understands that in the business of outsourced services, lower cost alone is not sufficient. Quality, reliability, speed and customer orientation are fully part of the equation.

Infosys’ concern to provide its customers with a competitive advantage led to the creation, in 2001, of the Corporate R&D unit SETLabs (Software Engineering and Technology Laboratories). This unit develops methodologies, frameworks and tools to drive efficiency in project execution and delivery. SETLabs help clients with development projects, addressing specific technology or business problems, while also looking into radical innovations and long-term strategic issues supporting business process innovation for the customers. By mid 2007, SET Labs had grown to 500 consultants and software engineers, filing numerous patent applications.

Concerning staff training, Infosys massively invests in technical and management education. Young staff joining the firm typically follows a four month course. This is carried out in Infosys’ training centre in Mysore, where more than 6 000 employees can be trained simultaneously. This contributes to Infosys having a staff much lower staff turnover than is typical in the industry. In an age where competitors are quick to copy a successful business, it is very necessary to bring about an atmosphere of innovation — no mean feat considering that most people resist change. At Infosys, the solution is a controlled blend of encouragement, incentive and a bit of blunt force. For instance, technical employees benefit from available ongoing training, and they must obtain increasingly higher certifications if they wish to advance in the company. Managers are required to come up with two innovations per year. This puts Kris Gopalakrishnan in a unique position, as one of the few remaining founding employees in the executive suite, to try and build the management bench of a company growing by leaps and bounds with young Indian engineers fresh out of college.

The relationship between the founders is one of friendship and that of respect, through all the ups and downs of building an IT empire, the founders shared a personal bond as tight as that of any family. Nilekani may have been the CEO while Kris was the COO, but the latter was actually senior to the former at one point in time. It was Kris himself who suggested in the 1990s that Nandan could be given a larger role as Nilekani was always considered the big picture man, such a relationship, putting the company before the person is the cornerstone of Infosys’ success. The long journey they had together had many ups and downs yet the unity the whole Infosys family kept is seen in the often quoted fairytale like results: it took 23 years for Infosys to reach $1 billion in revenues, but only 23 months to reach the $2 billion mark!

Kris GopalaKrishnan sums up how it feels to be an entrepreneur as “An entrepreneur is an optimist who has a vision that what he or she thinks will change the world, it is all about the belief in yourself and the vision that you have in your idea.”