August 31, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 30: Film actor-turned-politician Konidela Siva Shankara Vara Prasad or Chiranjeevi, has kicked off a debate in political and social circles in Andhra Pradesh, when he, in his inimitable filmi style, declared that he had a humble beginning and owed his success to his admirers.
"I have come a long way, from "Ganji to Benji" (from consuming gruel to travelling by Mercedes Benz)," he told half-a-million strong crowd in the temple town of Tirupati on August 26, while announcing the launch of his new political party, Praja Rajyam.
The film actor might have coined the now famous "Ganji to Benji" slogan to come closer to the common voter by identifying his past with the poor, but Chiranjeevi is certainly not the only one who had tread that road.
Quick to react was the State Congress president D Srinivas, who too sought to identify his past with the "poorest of the poor". "My mother used to roll beedis to make a living," Srinivas said. Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu quite often feels proud of his "humble past" saying his father was just a small farmer owning two acres of partly cultivable land in a backward village.
And former home minister T Devendar Goud, who had floated the Nava Telangana Praja Party after he quit the Telugu Desam, while regaling in his "ordinary past" argues that whatever fortune he had made was "all legal".
"I invested wisely in business and I have got huge returns,"he says.
While politicians in the State are busy digging out their "humble past" to gain the much-needed sympathy in an election year, there are hundreds of businessmen, politicians, artistes and entrepreneurs who had made billions, beginning from a scratch.
The Billionaires' Club
1. Gali Janardhan Reddy, mining giant and Minister in Karnataka government.
It was indeed a rags to riches story for this controversial politician, who wields influence both in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Once a penniless man and son of a police constable, Janardhan Reddy is now worth more than Rs 5000 crore with an annual income of about Rs 300 crore. Janardhan Reddy owns a mine in Obalapuram, which yields superior quality iron. He also has business interests in aviation, film production and hotel business.
2. T Devendar Goud, Nava Telangana Praja Party president. While many politicians tend to hide their assets and declare only a minuscule portion of their properties, Devendar Goud does not like to undervalue his net worth.The reason is that all his properties are IT-assessed. Officially he is one of the richest politicians in the country. His assets are valued at about Rs 500 crore.
Born in an ordinary family, he rose to top position of home minister and later founded a regional political party for the cause of Telangana. His family was once involved in bricks business.
3. Shantanu Prakash, managing director of Educomp Solutions. Prakash had a real humble beginning in his early life.When he started Educomp Solutions with just two employees, little did he realise that he would be the proud owner of Rs 4,500 crore. He is the son of a SAIL employee in Rourkela. He invested just Rs 1 lakh 15 years ago.
4. N Chandrababu Naidu, former chief minister and president of Telugu Desam. Chandrababu Naidu has come a long way,
from being the son of a poor farmer, to being one of the most influential politicians in the country. His father had owned just two acres of partially cultivable land in backward village of Naravaripalle in Chittoor district.
The TD chief's family now owns the Heritage Group of Companies.The Heritage Group, founded in 1992 by Chandrababu Naidu, is one of the fastest growing private sector enterprises in India. The annual turnover of Heritage Foods is around Rs 700 crore.
5. DK Adikesavulu Naidu, MP and chairman of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Board. Hailing from a marginal farmer's family, Adikesavulu Naidu worked in an arrack shop in Chittoor for a paltry sum.Later he started arrack sales in Karnataka and is now worth about Rs 500 crore. Owns Srinivasa distilleries. Also holds partnership with liquor baron Vijay Mallya. He was APCC treasurer when PV Narasimha Rao was the prime
minister. He quit Congress and joined the Telugu Desam to become its MP.
6. Ambica Ramachandra Rao, the businessman, who is famous with his Ambica Darbar Agarbatti, started his career as a worker in a road-side eatery. By pledging his wife's mangalsutra, he launched a small unit to manufacture agarbattis. He built assets worth about Rs 200 crore.
7. G Mallikarjuna Rao, chairman of GMR Group, is worth 6.2 billion US dollars. He had to sell off his wife's gold ornaments to start his business. He is now placed at rank 198 in the world's richest list by Forbes. He stands at 14th position in India Rich List. Born in the backward Rajam village of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, GMR, as he is popularly known, started business with a small jute mill. His fortune turned when he bagged infrastructure projects including airports in Hyderabad, New Delhi and Istanbul.
8. Lakshaman Dass Mittal, chairman, Sonalika Group, began his life as a wheat thresher in Hoshiarpur. The net worth of three generations of Mittals now touches Rs 1,00,000 crore. He owns the Rs 3,000 crore Sonalika Group, whose tractor plant is certified by Washington-based Environment Protection Agency.
9. Dr Kallam Anji Reddy, chairman, Reddy Labs, is the son of a turmeric farmer in Tadepalli near Vijayawada. He served in the state-owned Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited. His was the first company to take up drug discovery research in India. The company has revenues of about Rs 2,500 crore and is India’s second largest pharmaceutical company.
10. Rajnikant, film star, struggled a lot in his early life. He is one of the most influential and richest film stars in the country. He was reportedly paid Rs. 26 crore for his blockbuster Sivaji, the highest amount paid to any film actor in
the continent after Jackie Chan.Rajnikant had struggled during his early age. He had no money and began doing petty jobs in Bengaluru. He worked as a bus conductor for the Bangalore Transport Service (route No. 36) and it was during this time that he nurtured his acting talent.
11. MF Hussain, painter, is regarded as the 'Picasso of India' by the Forbes magazine. He is one of the best known artists in the country. He began his career painting cinema hoardings which earned just a few Rupees. He is the richest painter in the country. This talented artist rose to international fame from a humble beginning and now has become the highest paid painter in India. His single canvases have fetched up to 2 million dollars.
12. Sudip Dutta, chairman and managing director of Ess Dee Aluminium, used to earn Rs 15 a day working in a pouch making company. Persuades the owners of the foil company, who had lost interest, to sell it to him for deferred payments. He now owns 65 per cent of Ess Dee, whose name is the phonetic form of his initials and whose market capitalisation is Rs 1,413 crore.
13. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, president of Biocon, began her career from the garage of her house with just Rs 5000 in her pocket. Today her company has 1,500 employees, and spans the gamut of R&D through to clinical research, with products on the market in the US, Europe and other countries.
14. N Prasad, Matrix founder, is the son of a retired army personnel. It was a quick rise to the billionaires club for this man from a small village in Krishna istrict. No other Indian pharmaceutical company has grown to a size of Rs 500 crore in such a short span of time.
15. Ram Chandra Agarwal, chairman of Vishal chain of retail stores, began his career in a rolling shutter company with a salary of Rs 300. Later opens a garment shop in Kolkata for a rental of Rs 1200. He is now the proud owner of Vishal Retail spread over 1.35 million sq ft and is increasing it to 8-10 million sq ft.