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Monday, June 09, 2008

Rich Man, Poor Country

India finds itself on the world map, and there is a sense of pride that has crept into the Indian psyche. The new generation has oodles of caffeine running in the blood and find themselves capable of everything in this flat world of Tom Friedman. But, this has also opened up the pandora's box of tag along problems. The Indian tycoons of the past had no urge to show off and splurge to an extent that Mukesh is out to do with his absurdly large mansion. But perhaps, this is the message that Mukesh wants to send the world - that India is here and here to stay. Frugality be damned - this house is going to make a statement to the rest of the world.
For a trivial moment, Mukesh was the richest man in the world. Ranked 56 in 2006, he was 14 in 2007.
  • Mukesh Ambani - $63.2 billion
  • Carlos Slim Helu - $62.2993 billion
  • William (Bill) Gates - $62.29 billion
  • Warren Buffett - $55.9 billion
  • Lakshmi Mittal - $50.9 billion

Bombay Dreams
Mukesh Ambani is building an estimated $1 billion, 60-story home on one of Mumbai's most expensive streets. Here's a look at plans for the modern maharaja's palace.


The House

Altamount Road in Mumbai is a shady lane that meanders up a steep hill, elevating its residents above the din and chaos of the city. Its addresses are those of India’s corporate elite: The official residence of Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group, is here, and Naresh Goyal, the founder of Jet Airways, lives in the neighborhood. But even here, the new house belonging to Mukesh Ambani stands out.

Right now, it’s a pile of concrete and steel, but once construction is complete, the building, estimated in the Indian press to cost $1 billion, will be the primary home of India’s richest resident—its first rupee trillionaire. Reportedly inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the house will be among the tallest structures in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), at the equivalent of 60 stories—although there will be only 27 livable floors inside, each one with an outrageously high ceiling. Leaked plans for Antilia, as the future glass tower is named, reveal that Ambani and his family will keep their cars—there are spots for 168 of them—on six parking floors and have them repaired in an in-house garage. They’ll entertain as many as 50 friends at a time in a plush movie theater ideally suited to showing Hindi films—an Ambani passion. Above that, a health club and a sparkling pool beckon; there the family can swim laps, secure in the knowledge that a “refuge” area occupies a nearby floor, in case a sudden evacuation of the building is warranted. The guest apartments and four floors of living quarters for Ambani, his wife, their three children—and his mother—are near the top, with views of the Arabian Sea. The roof has three helipads, and several levels throughout the building are dedicated to gardens and terraces. A domestic staff of 600 will run the place, which was designed by Chicago architecture firm Perkins & Will.

Mumbai’s jigsawed skyline is one of the last parts of India that Ambani, 50, has left to conquer. As chairman of Reliance Industries—India’s version of General Electric—he’s emerged as the country’s premier capitalist, directing sprawling business operations that include petrochemicals, oil refining, textiles, retail, and biotechnology. Ambani’s father built Reliance up from a handful of textile mills into an industrial conglomerate that represents about 3 percent of India’s $4.1 trillion economy, with annual revenue of more than $27 billion, almost as much as the better-known Tata Group. While the Ambani family directly controls 46 percent of Reliance, its stock is held by one in four Indian investors, according to the company. “I’d go so far as to say that he’s pretty much running India,” Shobhaa Dé, a bestselling novelist and cultural observer, says of Ambani. “Policy decisions, the direction India is taking—his ambition is to be the most powerful man in the region.”

Everything about Ambani is over-the-top: He’s moving into the world’s most expensive house; he’s constructing the world’s largest oil-refining complex; he’s trying to remake India’s scattershot retail industry. Yet despite all of his almost absurdly big plans, Ambani is anything but a publicity-seeking social climber. In fact, he’s a semi-recluse: awkward, shy, a traditional Hindu who practices strict vegetarianism and abstains from drinking alcohol. With his mix of hubris, business savvy, and personal eccentricity, he may be a modern-day Howard Hughes.


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This blog is an offshoot of a website that I had conceived as a result of the spiritual grace and resultant inspiration during Shivaratri Y2K (http://www.jyotirlinga.com) on the joy of Shiva Bhakti and my quest for spiritual progress. Not finding the time (yep, bad excuse!), this blog suits me fine in quickly adding content... my spiritual forays and thoughts - helps log them too. My spiritual journey started with Hinduism and it's simple stories/ teachings as far back as when I was a 2nd grader, with Lord Shiva and has now found convergence with Advaitism / Duality. The Advaitism gurus like Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj; they have provided that spiritual boost of energy in many lagging moments and have tremendously influenced me ... little baby steps at a time... that will hopefully all lead upto a final crescendo. The merits of satsangh are many!

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