May 2008
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The great Indian leadership

Books V2

Business / Leadership


Men of Steel


Vir Sanghvi is one of the most famous contemporary journalists in India. When HT’s Mumbai edition was launched in 2005, Vir carried out a leadership series of articles covering India’s great business leaders talking about their personal life. This book covers eleven such Men of Steel, namely, Ratan Tata, Nandan Nielani, KM Birla, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Rajiv Chandrasekhar, Azim Premji, Subhash Chandra, Uday Kotak, Bikki Oberoi, Nusli Wadia and Vijay Mallya.


Thanks to this book that now I know how Vijay Mallya had to live like an upper-middle class boy when the family of his father’s other wife enjoyed the super riches, why Nusli Wadia was associated with the BJP and what was his conflict with Dhirubhai, how Bikki Oberoi (East India Hotels) didn’t do anything till 32, how Uday Kotak fought to collect Rs 30 lakh to start his business, how Subhash Chandra almost lost his empire to Star Plus, how Azim Premji is as passionate about soaps as about softwares, how Rajiv Chandrasekhar separated his family disputes from business ones, how Sunil Mittal made one of India’s finest companies from scratch, how KM Birla turned his 8000 crore company (1995) into 34000 crore (2005), how Nandan Nilekani started to create a ‘un-Marwari company’, and how Ratan Tata became Ratan Tata.


One thing that comes out after reading all these great leaders is their humility. Ratan Tata is a very shy man. He is even said to be ‘a loner and unable to make friends’. Sunil Mittal doesn’t take any credit for his Airtel, but says he was just ‘chosen by God’ to do all this. Nandan Nilekani was an ‘unattached’ person, he admits, “I was told that my approach to life was too cerebral. I was told that I was too much of an observer. If I was going to lead an organisation then I needed to show passion.” Kumar Birla, during the interview kept saying, “What is to ask me?”, and after some time said “this is so boring”. Also, he blushed and seemed awkward when recalling how BITS Pilani people hero-worshiped him. And Azim Premji’s children travel economy class…


A very good book for those who want to know ‘more’ about these leaders. It is not a collection of biographies. Also good for those who want to get a glimpse of corporate India’s true flag bearers.


Book:        Men of Steel: (India’s business leaders in candid conversation with Vir Sanghvi)

Author:     Vir Sanghvi

Publisher: Roli books

Price:        Rs 295

Kumar Rahul Tiwary


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