Billionaires are strange people.
And always fascinating.
I’m fortunate to know a few – I wouldn’t say I know them well enough to have them on my speed dial, but each time I meet with one I come away learning something new.
Last night Jennifer and I had dinner with one – our second dinner in two days with this fellow who has assets that are measured in billions. He’s a charming urbane and well educated man, who at his core is also deeply spiritual.
His name is Bimal, and he has his Doctorate in Business Management, on top of a law degree. He says that he’s never borrowed a rupee in his life – he has an aversion to spending money – it makes him shudder to even hand over 100 rupees in cash ($2) – so he always uses a credit card, that way he can’t actually see the physical money.
He must pay off his credit card within the allotted time because he says he’s stayed out of debt his entire life. If he doesn’t have the money to buy something, or to invest, he doesn’t do it. When he does invest it’s his money at stake, and so he’s very careful.
He and his two partners run 145 corporations, covering insurance, banking, finance, media and development. He says he doesn’t go into a business unless he’s certain that he can at least double his money within twelve months.
His finance companies lend to real estate developers at a minimum of 36% interest. If they default he takes their properties. His current project is online gaming. He has acquired the Intellectual Property Rights to a game that is hugely popular in India, that’s played in the streets. He is applying for a gaming license – he already has the software program constructed – and if he’s successful in getting the license and proceeding with his venture, then he will take 2.5% of every transaction, worth more than US$250 billion per year.
He lives in a $15m apartment with his wife and one son, aged twenty. They have water views from almost every window. The apartment, while comfortable and in one of the most prestigious blocks in Mumbai, is not what you’d call luxurious. There are no extravagant demonstrations of wealth.
He dedicates three full days to his family – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday and Saturday nights they all go to the movies together. His son will soon do a law degree in an Ivy League university in the United States. Then he’ll return and join his father in helping run the business.
Bimal mostly catches cabs around town. He walks out of his gated tower block and hails a cab off the street, to save money. When his driver takes him around town, it’s usually in a regular Toyota 4WD, however he has in his garage a Rolls Royce, a S-Class Mercedes and a 7 Series BMW.
He is a strong believer in Astrology, and does astrological charts for family and friends. He makes key business decisions based on astrology and his astral body, which is what he calls his Higher Self. This is where he gets his intuitive insights.
He meditates twice each day – always at the same time – and he believes in the pranayamic principle of alternate nostril breathing.
He is sharp, shrewd, charming, and has a short attention span. He’s fiercely intelligent, and his mind makes immediate leaps, as though his comprehension is so fast his thoughts can’t keep up with what he’s saying or doing.
For some reason he likes Jennifer and me.
Actually, he told me he likes me because unlike most people, I don’t ask him for anything. And it’s true, I don’t. All I want from him is the personal experience – and to gain a greater understanding of Indian culture.
He’s been enormously generous with his time, and we can’t leave his apartment without our bellies full of the most glorious Indian food, cooked by his trained chef.
I like Bimal. He is a wonderfully complex and delightful man. I would be terrified to do business with him. His wife Sonal and son Aadityja are both wonderful as well.
Jennifer and I both feel very privileged to have their friendship.