Business Maharajas (1996) is a book by Dr. Gita Piramal about seven Indian business moguls. Dr. Piramal introduces us to the life and works of Dhirubhai Ambani, Rahul Bajaj, Aditya Birla, R. P. Goenka, Brij Mohan Khaitan, Bharat & Vijay Shah, and Ratan Tata. These men either founded or succesfully managed some of independent India’s biggest business groups. The book discusses the challenges these business leaders confronted in managing their empires and makes an effective argument for why all Indians need to appreciate the success of these moguls who succeeded despite tremendous odds against them.
Gita Piramal is a PhD in business history, but it is her affiliation with a leading Indian business family that allows her an insider view into the lives of these business leaders. Her insider status is apparent in the book. Professor Piramal has trouble acknowleding and presenting the “dark side” of any of the business leaders in her book. This is not a shortcoming in itself, if Dr. Piramal acknowledged her privileged insider status upfront. Other than the obvious issue of bias, I was also surprised that Dr. Piramal avoided a discussion of why Indian business moguls have generally ignored or overlooked overseas expansion, unlike business people from U.S., Europe, and even China who have been more willing to and succeeded in expanding their business abroad.
The book is a good read. Dr. Piramal has a story-telling writing style that keeps the reader engaged by presenting interesting, if not always critically important, information on her subjects. Certainly worth reading, especially if you are considering doing business in India or with any of the companies discussed in the book.