Marwar - May Jun 2016 - page 56

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the $1.95 billion worth trader
and investor, often referred to as the Warren Buffett
of India, has his office on the 15th floor of Nariman
Bhavan at Nariman Point, Mumbai. As the setting sun
outside turns the Arabian Sea into a golden shimmering
blanket, we decide to delve into the life of the golden
boy of the world of trading and investment. His candour
and simplicity surprise us, as does the story of his self-
sustained career and benevolence.
Tracing his roots
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s family hails from the Jhunjhunu
district of Rajasthan. While his father, Radheshyam
Jhunjhunwala, was born in Mumbai (then Bombay),
Rakesh was born in Hyderabad. A government official,
Rakesh’s father was posted in many cities. Rakesh came to
call Mumbai his home since he was two-and-a-half years
old. “I tell everybody that I am Hindu by birth, Marwari
Baniya by caste, Mumbaiite by domicile and Indian by
spirit,” he says. Rakesh and his family visit his hometown
and the family temple in Rajasthan once every two years.
Rakesh schooled at HVB Academy, Mumbai, and
earned his BCom from Sydenham College, Mumbai. He
later completed his chartered accountancy course in 1984.
“I was paid
90 per month as stipend then, after which I
never earned any salary. I have never been employed you
see,” he says, recalling those days.
Taking pride in his heritage
When Rakesh first started investing in 1985, he had no
money, and his father refused to finance him. Instead,
he told Rakesh that he was always welcome to stay in
the family house in Walkeshwar, Mumbai. “He told me
'If you don’t succeed, you can always return and earn
15,000.' We were a middle-class family, and in 1985,
15,000 was a decent amount. He asked me to be fearless
and blessed me,” Rakesh says with a hint of nostalgia. He
lost his father in 2008, and now lives with his mother, his
wife and three children.
To give him a start, his older brother Rajesh, a practising
chartered accountant, helped him borrow money from
some of his clients. “That’s how I began,” Rakesh says.
Rakesh has three siblings: Rajesh Jhunjhunwala, Sudha
Gupta and Neena Sanganeria. “I am the youngest—the
baby of the family. I have only one wife (laughs), one
daughter and two sons. We live with my mother,” he says.
Talking about his Marwari background, Rakesh lauds
the community by pointing out that if today it has the
richest and some of the most successful people, it is because
of their hard work and determination. “I belong to the
Agarwal community, which has some of the wealthiest
people, such as the Piramals, the Guptas, the Ruias, the
Mittals, the Modis, and so many more” he says.
“Have you ever wondered why so many successful
people hail from such a small area (the Shekhawati region
in Rajasthan)?” he asks. “I attribute it to our hard-working
and thrifty nature. And this is because we came from
I may-june 2016
cover s tory
an area that is very hostile. Life in Rajasthan is not easy,
because there is no rain, no proper irrigation, and that
makes us so resilient. I am a proud Marwari, but now we
are Mumbaiites, and we are what Mumbai has made us.”
He gives credit to his Marwari genes for his success,
although he feels his education and experience have
been equal contributors. A first generation businessman,
Rakesh wishes people would not use the term Marwari
in a derogatory manner. “I feel in India the successful,
especially the wealthy, are often looked down upon. Of
course, this attitude is changing,” he says.
A loving husband and a doting father
Married for 29 years, Rakesh and his wife Rekha are
inseparable. A case in point is the name of his company:
RARE Enterprises. As if here too they complement each
other, the word RARE is the acronym of the first two
letters of their respective names (‘Ra’ from Rakesh and
‘Re’ from Rekha). “I have no words to express what she
means to me. She is my soulmate and we have the perfect
relationship. It is tough to say whose contribution has
been greater; we have both contributed equally. She
is tolerant and patient, with a lot of compassion,” he
smiles. He goes on to show us a video of Rekha that he
had recorded on his mother’s 80th birthday celebrations
last year. “You know what, we don’t discriminate
between our parents. When I got married, my father had
told me that now I had two sets of parents, and not one.
We are four siblings, but Rekha is my mother’s closest
friend,” Rakesh says.
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala with
his mother, wife, daughter
and twin sons
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