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Work, Wisdom And Wealth
Friday, November 21, 2008

All around us, we are witnessing the creation of tremendous, nearly incredible amounts of new wealth. This phenomenon is unlike the history of any other wealth creation; these rallies are more fickle, the numbers are higher and the spoils are going to more people. The recipients of this wealth are, so to speak, the second generation of the high-tech wizards who flourished in the past century. These are rewards for dreaming a dream of a better-informed and connected world, and for being gritty enough to see it through — as well as lucky enough to see it come true.
Granted, plenty has already been written about wealth, especially this new type of wealth-generation. Lists abound, enumerating the wealthiest individuals in various fields and geographical regions. So why create yet another list?

What you have in your hands is more than a list; it is a chronicle of a remarkable time in history. Each individual’s profile is almost like a page out of their personal diaries, reflecting the values, the mission and the inspiration that they stand for individually and collectively. We did not find even a single individual who did what they all could have done: made money enough for his or her family, quit, and headed off for a lifelong vacation. Wealth has, in fact, brought to many a renewed sense of responsibility and gratitude and a drive to multiply it for themselves and others in their circle and in their community.

Rich South Asians in technology have shown a great deal of compassion and concern for the less privileged. Their record in philanthropy is far greater than that attributed to Silicon Valley as a whole. As you will read in the profiles that follow, these successful leaders are funding several noteworthy social and educational projects in India, as well as giving back substantially to their alma maters in the United States and India.

This newfound money is often not as tangible as it seems. The new high-tech companies, especially the ones in the Internet sector, have far from proven their business model – several of them have yet to even show profits! So individual wealth often has little connection with real assets and value, and has more to do with long-term investor expectations, a bullish market and shares and options that may be difficult to liquidate because doing so may send a distress signal to investors, who may panic and abandon the stock. Such insecurity makes the recipient of this wealth humbler and more dedicated to take the work to its final conclusion. After all, if all this new business was simply money for the sake of it, there would be a lot more turnover at the top level.

This list is clearly more subjective than others that are based on the same criteria. From our point of view, the wealth factor is merely a convenient tool to judge one’s contribution to their profession, the lives of those around them and to philanthropic causes dear to them. This list does not attempt to glorify wealth. It aims to chronicle the rise of a generation of technology professionals and entrepreneurs, and inspire a vast multitude of those who have the same fire in their hearts, same freshness of ideas, and same determination to make it work. In fact, the net worth of some individuals included in this list is not even mentioned. In some cases, this figure was not publicly available; in other cases, our subject chose not to volunteer disclosure. But, considering their track records of these private individuals, they most certainly belong in this group.

Unlike some of the people in the entertainment industry, for instance, for whom no amount of money seems enough to sustain an opulent lifestyle, techies are, by nature, a low-maintenance group. When we talk in terms of a few hundred million dollars, it becomes difficult to fathom what anybody can do with all that wealth. Buy two big houses, a few fast cars, take a few vacations, throw parties, and make the life of friends and family easier by helping to create more wealth. Other worthy investments are helping startups take off, donating the money to a school, college, or a favorite charity. This group of 50 has by and large chosen both paths. And they have also chosen to lead a quality, health-conscious lifestyle, leaving lots of time for raising a family.

When we first sent out messages to our short list of people we wanted to cover in this feature, reactions varied. We received several instant and enthusiastic callbacks from individuals interested and willing to be featured.

A few quarters displayed some skepticism: is this some kind of a marketing exercise? Will they be portrayed in the proper light as sincere, hardworking professionals and entrepreneurs who happened to have made lots of money on the way, or will they be labeled as overly rich with a lavish lifestyle?

We even received downright refusals — people did not want to be harassed by all kinds of funding seekers or jeopardize the privacy of their families. They were skeptical of a limelight granted because of their wealth and not their accomplishments. Some of these cases surprised us a great deal since these very individuals have often appeared in other such lists that highlight the net-worth factor far more than we have done here.

After careful evaluation and due consideration, this list has been cast in ink and paper (and in bytes; check out the interactive version on our Web site, www.siliconindia.com/50wealthiest, to find even more information). Although we plan to update this list annually in print, it is an ongoing feature on our Web site, with regular updates on the members of this list and their companies. We hope you find this feature useful and inspiring; we look forward to your feedback and suggestions as well as nominations for future members of this list.

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