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These nonagenarian Indian tycoons still agile and kicking

From 99-year-old Keshub Mahindra to 91-year-old DLF chairman emeritus Jat K Pal Singh, several nonagenarian Indian tycoons are still taking Indian businesses to next level

Keshub Mahindra and Jat K Pal Singh
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Keshub Mahindra and Jat K Pal Singh

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The story of Vijaypat Singhania is so sad and heart wrenching. Now over 91 years, Singhania should have been living quietly with his wife, kids and friends. Sadly it is not happening with him as he is facing acrimonious legal battle with his son, Gautam Singhania, the Chairman of Raymond group

In the recent death of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry at the age of 93, Keshub Mahindra, 99, lost a friend and Indian business world has lost a construction tycoon. Reclusive and gracious Mistry and Keshub Mahindra knew each other since last several decades. Alas, Mistry couldn't attend the 100 birth of his friend, Keshub Mahindra, one of the tallest Indian industrialists post independence.

Deepak Parekh, Chairman and Managing Director, HDFC, says: "Keshub Mahindra can easily be clubbed in the league of JRD Tata and GD Birla, considering his phenomenal contribution in the field of Indian industry." Referring to the case of Keshub Mahindra, who was the non-executive chairman of Union Carbide India (UCIL) when the Bhopal gas tragedy took place, Deepak Parekh asked how could the non executive chairman be responsible for a design flaw in the plant? "I agree this is our worst tragedy but we can't get emotional about it," he said. For every rail accident, the railway minister is not charged, Parekh said.

Keshub Mahindra is chairman emeritus of the $16.4 billion (revenue fiscal 2021) Mumbai-listed conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra. He is an uncle of Anand Mahindra, the current head of Mahindra & Mahindra. When India got freedom in 1947 and Gandhiji was still around, young Keshub Mahindra joined his father's company in 1947, became Chairman in 1963 and stepped down in 2012, ceding the spot to his nephew, Anand Mahindra. Anand's father, late Harish and Keshub were siblings. During his long and illustrious career, Mahindra transformed the company from an assembler of Willys jeeps in India to a diversified conglomerate. And now, the Mahindra and Mahindra is best known for its tractors and SUVs, but are also present in sectors such as software services, hospitality and real estate.

Born in 1923, Mahindra is known for his philanthropy. Anand Mahindra still discusses various issues related to Mahindra and Mahindra with his uncle, Keshub Mahindra. He is still very active and visits his office from time to time.

And in Delhi's plus APJ Abdul Kalam Road mansion lives fit and agile 91 years old Jat K Pal Singh. He is a billionaire real estate developer, and the chairman emertius of real estate developer DLF Limited, founded by his father-in-law Chaudhary Raghvender Singh. DLF has an estimated land bank of 10,255 acres, with about 3,000 acres in Gurugram, called DLF City. Born in 1931, KP Singh after graduating in science from Meerut College, Uttar Pradesh, constructed numerous earthquake-proof office buildings, apartments, shopping malls and leisure facilities in Gurgaon. He is a father of DLF, the bustling city just outside South Delhi. It was he who had developed it. He wanted to transform Gurgaon into a Singapore-like satellite city of New Delhi and attract international companies to establish operations there. Gurgaon may be the flashiest suburb in India with its shiny towers, wide roads, hip malls and penthouse apartments of top CEOs. But the man synonymous with the pre-eminence of Gurgaon, says he has just one regret - Gurgaon is still not the futuristic city he had set out to create. In 2020, Singh handed over the reins to his son Rajiv.

And in Kolkata, 1931 born Benu Gopal Bangur, the chairman of Shree Cements leads a very active life. Bangur hails from Kolkata and belongs to a Marwari business family. He carried the entrepreneurship traits in the family itself. In those times, his grandfather, Mungee Ram Bangur, used to be a stockbroker, and his brother Ram Coowar Bangur led the foundation of the Bangur Empire, one of the biggest family groups of India. He completed his B.Com honours degree from Calcutta University. In those times, he was one of the first graduates in Kolkata.

Bangur is one of the richest persons in India. According to the Forbes list, this 90-year-old billionaire from Kolkata ranks 20th in the Indian rich list. His net worth is estimated to be around Rs 56,250 crore. He is a major stakeholder in Shree Cement which has a market capitalization of around Rs 89,750 crore. Shree Cements was started by Bangur's grandfather in Jaipur. He bequeathed a huge 65 per cent stake in Shree Cements after which he became the chairman of the company. The company is also known as Bangur Cement. Under his watchful eyes, the cement company has become the third-largest cement company in India by market cap today.

Since 2010, the company's revenues have quadrupled from Rs 3,543 crore to Rs 14,165 crore. Currently, Bangur's company manufactures and sells cement under the brand names Roofon, Bangur Power, Shree Jung Rodhak, and Rockstrong. Meanwhile, at the ripe age of 90, he has let his children take care of the business empire that carries its legacy with it. His son, Hari Mohan Bangur, a chemical engineer from IIT Mumbai, is currently looking after the company.

Alas, the story of Vijaypat Singhania is so sad and heart wrenching. Now over 91 years, Singhania should have been living quietly with his wife, kids and friends. Sadly it is not happening with him as he is facing acrimonious legal battle with his son, Gautam Singhania, the Chairman of Raymond group. Very sadly the father-son are on the collision course since long over moveable and immoveable properties.

Gautam has said that he is ready to sit and discuss issues with his father. He has also offered his father to stay with his family. Vijaypat stepped down as the Chairman of the 90-year-old company in 2015 after handing over the reins and his shareholding to Gautam, following which the battle started. The Singhania senior had alleged that he was even being removed as the chairman emeritus of the company and from his flat. Both father and son have their very strong views against each-other. Still, Vijaypat Singhania does not deserve court battles in this part of his life. Finally, one only hopes that this club of nonagenarian tycoons would grow thick and fast.

(The author is Delhi-based senior journalist and writer. He is author of Gandhi's Delhi which has brought to the forth many hidden facts about Mahatma Gandhi)

Vivek Shukla
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