Demystifying An Entrepreneur

Financial writer Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s second book is a take on the country’s largest employer after the Indian Railways – Sahara India Pariwar. With its primary business in the loosely regulated residuary non-banking business, Sahara and its Chairman Subrata Roy have courted both glamour and controversy. Bandyopadhyay’s book, Sahara: The Untold Story, is rich in detail, anecdotes and context. This book is perhaps the most controversial business book in recent times. Even before it was released, the Sahara Group moved the Calcutta High Court, got a stay on the publication of the book and slapped a Rs. 200 crore defamation suit against the author and the publisher. The stay was vacated following an out-of-court settelement under the terms of which the book now carries a disclaimer given by the Sahara Group that finds it “defamatory” and full of “insinuations”. The book is based on painstaking research to demystify India’s most secretive and largely unlisted conglomerate that has 4,799 establishments and business under 16 verticals in its fold and is the second largest employer in the country after Indian railways. It has excelled in raising money from people over decades and courted endless controversies.

Entrepreneur Subrata Roy, the guardian angel of the group, whose feet are touched by everybody in the Pariwar, wants to reach out to a million lives but feels impeded and shuttered in by regulations. So, the ongoing clash with the regulators was inevitable. But when a regulator slams one door, maverick Roy opens another. This play has been on since 1978, when Sahara was set up. Roy soaks in the glamour of cricket and the film world, and exudes patriotism, with a statue of Bharat Mata adorning his headquarters in Lucknow. The other India, the millions of illiterate, poor depositors in northern and central India, stands in awe of him. Roy is the Robin Hood of a country where only 35 per cent of the adult population has access to formal banking services. But does he also exploit them or are these people a front for others?

Sahara: the Untold Story is the answer to all these questions. The first chapter of the book sets out the context, the second chapter is devoted to Peerless (another conglomerate which grew by leap and bounds in the 70’s and 80’s.). Chapter three, four and five dwell on Sahara’s fight with the RBI, a phase that is over. Chapter six and seven deal with its fight with India’s capital market regulator, a phase not over as yet. Chapter eight portrays a few key people who are involved in the Sahara saga. Chapter nine is an attempt to demystify the Roy persona. And chapter ten is a crystal ball gazing into what lies ahead for the group. The annexure that follow outline the history and growth of shadow banking; carry some of the communications between Sahara, RBI and others which are not in the public domain; and the timelines of the Peerless and the Sahara sagas.

In a nutshell, this book is an attempt to answer everything people wanted to know about the Saharasri and the Sahara India Pariwar. The way Subroto Roy build his empire, outsmarting the rule books, is a story to be told and read. Sahara: the Untold Story does the same!

By Nilabh Krishna

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