Companies

Subrata Roy: Confident of swimming the troubled waters

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on December 21, 2017 Published on September 08, 2012

Subrata Roy





“Nobody enjoys doing anything for anyone. No one performs an act to oblige anyone - in fact, he only obliges himself, either for more and more material gains or to save and escape from any kind of material losses or from emotional dissatisfaction. Therefore, no one sacrifices for anyone.”

These words, written on the first page of Subrata Roy's book Shanti, Sukh: Santushthi, may have come back to haunt him. The anthology on life and its governing philosophies was written in 1994, as was another book titled Maan, Samman, Atmasamman. Both epitomise Roy's travails and the motivation to continue to soldier on.

Peace and contentment, however, appear a remote possibility for Roy in the immediate term, with the Supreme Court ordering his Sahara Group to refund more than $3 billion (Rs 17,400 crore) it collected from millions of small investors.

Subrata Roy has told depositors that there is nothing to worry about. Stating that in the last 33 years, the company had not received a single complaint of non-payment and that it has paid around Rs 1,40,000 crore to about 12 crore investors, Subrata Roy has challenged the “entire authority” of the country to find a single instance of wrongdoing by the Group.

As an ex-employee of the Group, who now works with a television channel, says: “He has always been at the receiving end, but says he is used to it. The fact that he has been close to politicians, sports personalities and Bollywood stars has always been criticised heavily, but he has a flamboyant nature.”

Origins

From a modest origin in a village in Bihar to heading a mammoth business conglomerate spread across India, Subrata Roy lived a life less ordinary. With just Rs 2,000 savings in 1978, Roy began his journey with Sahara as a small deposits para-banking business.

At that time, his assets comprised a table and two chairs, a small office, a Lambretta scooter and a staff of one clerk and a runner boy.

Today, the Group claims to have grown into a $10-billion diversified business conglomerate with interests in housing, entertainment and media, sports, healthcare and consumer products. Assets sport a market value upwards of Rs 1,09,224 crore ($23 billion).

For the 64-year-old Roy, and armed with a diploma in Mechanical Engineering from the Government Technical Institute, Gorakhpur, 1978 marked the start of a journey undertaken with the belief that ‘emotion is the key to success’.

That belief has helped the Group grow from the original ‘chit fund’ business model to the current acquisitory mode for hotels (London's Grosvenor House for $726 million and New York's Plaza Hotel for $570 million); an IPL team Sahara Pune Warriors for Rs 1,702 crore making it the costliest franchise in the Twenty20 event, and a 42.5 per cent stake in Force India, the Formula One team owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, for $100 million.

Landed gentry

In August, the Group launched an ambitious retail chain project, Sahara Q Shop, for which an initial investment of Rs 3,000 crore was planned. Its advertisement, with a prominent cricketer performing the last rites and another digging a grave to promote the adulteration-free products, ran into rough weather with complaints lodged at the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The ad was withdrawn within a week of its release.

With assets spread across 32 businesses, the Sahara Group also holds claim to over 33,633 acres of real estate spread across the country. Additionally, the Group is in the process of buying around 11,000 acres.

A prime project is Aamby Valley, near the Mumbai Pune Expressway, spread over more than 10,000 acres. Most of the money raised by the Group through the issue of optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCD) has been invested in Aamby Valley. The market value of Aamby Valley is reportedly around Rs 40,461 crore.

In order to pay off investors, the Group may have to sell its realty assets, said the official quoted earlier.

Despite repeated attempts, Sahara spokesperson Abhijit Sarkar did not respond to an e-mail questionnaire.

Profit Sharing

Interestingly, the Sahara Group works under a profit-sharing pattern, whereby 35 per cent of the profit goes towards the company’s net owned fund, 25 per cent is directed towards social development activities, and 40 per cent for the welfare of its workers.

All the promoters, directors and partners are said to have taken an oath on an affidavit, that neither they nor their family members could ever share the profit or assets of the company.

Be that as it may, Group Chairman Subrata Roy may have to go back to his book Maan, Samman… and pay heed to a line, that says, Mahatvakanksha honi chahiye dene ke mamle mein (There should be an ambition to return).

One hopes he extends his personal philosophy even to his business.

Also read: >SEBI sets up ‘Sahara cell’ to execute apex court order

>amritanair.ghaswalla@thehindu.co.in

Published on September 08, 2012
null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor