Before the book, came the brand message and before the brand message, came the desire to become a self-aware organisation. Confused? Let me explain.
In 2015, we hired an organisation branding firm, Cracker & Rush (C&R) to tell us who we were becoming. By then, we had a talented team of employees and a select and enviable clientele. We had started off as one of the earliest SEBI-registered Investment Advisory firms in India, and were now purposefully moving towards our next goal of becoming a boutique Multi Family Office. What was lacking was a clear brand message.
The strategy team from C&R spoke to our clients, employees and the management team to understand the intrinsic qualities of the organisation. They found the perfect alignment between our philosophy and our typical client’s profile.
C&R used the term “Wise Wealth” to describe our brand personality. Our clients were wisely wealthy and, because of our business model and our desire to serve such clients, we had become custodians of Wise Wealth. Once our authentic brand personality emerged, all of us at Entrust felt pride and relief. We had also acquired a higher sense of purpose: to enable the wisely wealthy.
But within a few months, I became antsy. It seemed as if I had stumbled upon the most pristine cove of water, and instead of sharing it with a thirsty world, I was hoarding it all for myself. Wasn’t it my responsibility to evangelise the concept of Wise Wealth? Didn’t the world need this idea, now more than ever before? Of course, it did, and I was going to deliver it to the world.
The obvious tool for dissemination was a book. But instead of assuming that I already knew this concept called Wise Wealth, I decided to begin with a clean slate. I would go out into the wider world and learn the concept from its truest practitioners. And, to avoid conflict of interest, I decided not to involve my own clients in the project.
Beginning 7:30 am on 31st October 2018, Dr VA Sastry gave me the first interview for the book in a room pulsating with the jingle of prayer bells and the aroma of incense sticks. It was an auspicious beginning indeed. The next day, I met Mike Shah. In January and February 2019, I met local stalwarts like Ravi Gururaj, Narayan Ramachandran, Madan Padaki, PM Kumar and Abhishek Poddar, and visited Chennai to meet Vivek Reddy and MM Murugappan in one memorable day.
A razor-sharp intellect and a committment to excelling in every moment meant that he gave in-depth answers to nearly 40 questions in 80 minutes flat. Those were the most alert 80 minutes of my life!
He is one of the greatest institution-builders of our times. He had many stories to share on the values that guided him and on how matters around wealth had to be dealt with.
My ex-boss was affable as always. After the interview, he stayed back to catch up and share perspectives on the market. Each meeting with him is a great learning experience.
It was his birthday, an incredibly busy day in the already busy life of a stalwart. Yet, when we began talking, he felt that this was an important project and gave us a whole three hours!
Under her leadership, Thermax has enjoyed a grand growth arc; as one would expect from any great leader, she shares the credit with those who made the transformation possible - her mother (her predecessor), her husband (her constant ally), the CXOs and the employees of Thermax.
When he converses with you, the rest of the world doesn't exist for him. Every moment, he offers you unwavering eye contact and attention. He practises what he preaches.
She kept supplying local delicacies. A wonderful host and a great human being - quick to appreciate and a joy to be around.
Just as I was wondering whether I would end up getting only the south Indian flavour of Wise Wealth, Anu Aga accepted my request to meet. She dazzled me with her humility. And she was so happy with the experience of being interviewed and so convinced about the importance of the idea that she connected me with many wisely wealthy people that we normally get to see only on magazine covers and television screens. After that, it became clear that I was gaining a well-rounded, pan-Indian understanding of Wise Wealth. From Coimbatore in the south to Delhi in the north, and Ahmedabad in the West to Chennai in the east, I crisscrossed our great nation many times.
When the last interview – Sunil Kant Munjal’s on 28th July 2019 – was done, I sat back in awe of what I had witnessed. Thirty-five wisely wealthy people and seven subject-matter experts had given me front row seats to their genuine, genius minds. Only a stroke of good fortune had made this possible. Somebody up there must have wanted this book to have a grand scope.
I now had more than two thousand distinct data points. It took a full five months to filter, sieve, segregate and categorise them into thirty-five chapters. Yes, it was a coincidence that the inputs of thirty-five wisely wealthy people fit into thirty-five chapters. Writing and rewriting them took up all my spare time till early 2021.
By then, we had finalised Juggernaut to be our publishers. We wanted somebody who would retain the individuality of the book while giving it wings and luminescence. Chiki Sarkar, who runs this publishing house, fit the bill. And C&R’s cover design, which they had done at the beginning of the project, was just as lovely and relevant at the end of the project.
Do I regret anything in this journey? Well, I regret that my network did not extend till Kolkata and the North East. I would have loved to interview Wise Wealth practitioners from that part of the country. And I really wish I had been able to convince a few more outstanding Indians – Azim Premji and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw to name two – to give me time for the book.
Other than that, this has been an incredible journey. Throughout the research and writing, it felt as if a sacred chant was finding voice and acquiring words inside me. Those words belong to the world now. The fact that I was the custodian of those words for a brief while has been the greatest privilege of my professional life so far.
When we think of the very rich, we think of people with great power and who spend lavishly. But there is also a class of the super rich who use their resources to tackle humanity's most pressing issues. This book chronicles their struggles, innovations and triumphs. In doing so, it offers a charter for Wise Wealth, an idea whose time has come.