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Who wants to be a billionaire?

For some billionaire entrepreneurs, the doors of perception never shut. And the hard work never stops

Brian Carvalho
Published: Apr 12, 2018 12:50:11 PM IST
Updated: Apr 18, 2018 09:53:50 AM IST

Who wants to be a billionaire?

Think ‘billionaire’ and the first rush of slides that run through your mind are:
A: Luxury cars, mansions, exotic vacations, yachts, private jets.
B: Grunt work, nuts and bolts, sacrifice, failure, get-rich-slow-but I’ll get there.

You don’t have to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett to figure that those who spend more time mulling Option B are more likely to succeed in building a business with size and scale. That, of course, doesn’t mean you block out the jet set lifestyle. That’s a byproduct, not what you spend your waking hours dreaming about. A germ of an idea that painstakingly metamorphoses into a blueprint and then evolves into a business plan and eventually into a competitive business model perhaps is the difference between vision and delusion.

Who wants to be a billionaire?
Celebrating billionaires and their successes is important for various reasons, the biggest being the part they play in inspiring tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. Bill Gates looked up to Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg has Bill Gates as his role model and, for good or otherwise, Zuckerberg is proving to be an icon for millions of millennials. For the most part, it’s a virtuous cycle that will ensure the fires of entrepreneurship keep burning.

Entrepreneurship captures the imagination because it’s mostly about people who start from scratch—often with nothing more than their wits and dollops of desperation. Turning billionaire by building on a family business is indeed creditable; but to improvise on that old joke about billionaires turning millionaires once they enter the aviation business, many next-gen scions and their billions may have been preceded by patriarchs who were multi-billionaires to begin with.

Of the 2,200-odd billionaires on the Forbes list, perhaps the most stirring story is that of Rocco Commisso , a penniless Italian immigrant turned American cable tycoon whose business was at last count worth $4.3 billion. Commisso, who owns the company outright, makes his debut on the Forbes Billionaires List.

Also inspiring is the story of Robert Smith , founder of Vista Equity Partners, who has emerged as the richest black person in America, the 155th-richest person in America and the 480th in the world. Does that shield him from racist taunts? Not really. For Smith, the sting of such incidents only means that “we had to work harder”.

Back home, debuting in a hallowed club of 119—making India the country with the third-highest number of billionaires, after the US and China—are twins Anurang and Tarang Jain. In this fortnight’s cover story, Samar Srivastava captures the fascinating journey of the brothers who run different businesses in the same sector—auto components.

What next after you become a billionaire? Bill Gates put it succinctly in a speech at the University of Washington in 2011 when he said that “it’s the same hamburger”, once you get much beyond wanting to have millions of dollars. In a similar vein, Francis Holder , who has built a billion-dollar bread-and-pastry empire to become the 1,867th wealthiest person in the world, told Forbes: “If tomorrow I was 10 times richer, it would not make any difference to me.”

Gates, along with wife Melinda, found his calling in attempting to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems revolving around poverty, education and health. He’s doing so by disbursing billions in grants to find innovative solutions in science, medicine and computer technologies. The Dom Perignons and the yachts and the Ferraris will come and go, but for some billionaire entrepreneurs the doors of perception never shut. And the hard work never stops.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@Brianc_Ed

(This story appears in the 27 April, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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