Thursday, August 31, 2017


Book review
The Wealth Wallahs
Shreyasi Singh
Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt. Ltd

Sudhir Raikar, Content Architect, IIFL | Mumbai | October 13, 2016, 14:28 IST


The Wealth Wallahs is more than a delightful peek into the world of wealth. Author Shreyasi Singh’s measured insights can’t merely be attributed to her editorial stint with the Indian edition of the US magazine Inc which gave her a ring side view of India’s new-age entrepreneurial evolution. Her conviction stems more from a visible penchant for detached probe, consciously avoiding the lure of convenient conclusion which, especially in the case of literature of the given genre, tends to escape public scrutiny.

Against the enchanting backdrop of a bagful of ‘tryst with wealth’ tales - whether incidental or accidental - of some of the happening first-generation entrepreneurs and professionals - she presents a near-360 degree account of IIFL Wealth, the trailblazing firm which has transformed the wealth management space with its prudent takes and proactive tweaks.

Singh’s ‘unspooling’ of the IIFL Wealth phenomenon is splendidly universal, an objective commentary on the post-2008 progression led by India’s entrepreneurial zing, also a torchlight on the cosseted territory of wealth that was steeped in secrecy for long. In what’s a profound scrutiny of the first-generation wealth dynamic, citing seminal work of specialists and surveyors for germane reinforcement, Singh underlines the changing psyche of the oven-fresh wealth creators and the consequent shift in the strategies of avant-garde wealth managers, as also the cause and effect of the socio-cultural attitudes of a vast majority, watching the wealthy from the sidelines.

It was IIFL Wealth’s astute focus on first-generation money, Singh tells us, that helped it reap rich dividends contrary to what the majority believed when they set up shop. On one end was the aftermath of the global slowdown that posed serious questions on the value prop of a novice wealth management player, on the other was a thriving environment where umpteen funding rounds were making millionaires zillion times faster than ever before and, where for the first time, working professionals became well-heeled purely from employment. By virtue of its offbeat focal point as much as its core competence made sharper from the synergies with its parent group, IIFL Wealth mirrored the success of its clients and scripted a revolution of sorts for the whole industry.

Singh has unleashed a wealth of aspects linked with wealth:

Like how many of India’s first-generation rich are yet uncomfortable talking about their affluence, perhaps guided by fear of inviting undue attention in a heavily lopsided society, and even fatal consequences as many events have proved...

Like how the manner in which wealth is made, particularly in specific sectors like real estate, still influences public perception – differing vastly across geographies and demographics - that in turn affects the behaviour of those in its possession...

Like how the venture capital and private equity-backed wealth phenomenon has changed the face of entrepreneurship in India, making it more democratic and ‘beyond the clutch of a small group of business families and industrial houses’...

Like how most of the first generation rich swear by refreshingly new definitions of wealth rooted in purpose and prudence ( and even philanthropy), not power and propensities...

Singh neatly sums up how the first generation rich have changed the rules of the game for wealth management (thriving on calculated risks and a yearning for capital growth, not merely its protection) before unfolding the inspiring story of IIFL Wealth. Her chronicle of the maverick wealth management firm is matter of fact, a welcome departure from the typical media narratives that are either reduced to replicas of corporate brochures, too rosy for comfort, or made to sound unduly caustic only to project ‘deep insights’ through a premeditated stance of dismissal and negation.

Singh dissects the IIFL Wealth DNA beginning with the fascinating bios of the three founding musketeers and a brief on the owner of the holding company, himself a self-made entrepreneur who built a financial powerhouse on the sheer strength of his non-conformism. The firm’s vision and mission, values and beliefs, style and substance, camaraderie and conviction, strategies and tactics, trials and triumphs, twists and turns, learning and improvisation – she touches every aspect by reciting endearing anecdotes that tell us more about the stellar character of the firm and recounting milestone developments that scripted its success and competitive edge.

Above all, Shreyasi Singh is an awesome story teller, judiciously linking the end of each chapter to the beginning of the next with the authority of a bestselling author. That’s precisely why this is not just a book for the wealthy or the managers of their wealth. As Singh puts it succinctly, it is useful reading for anyone interested in a fast-evolving, aspirational country, more so when wealth decisions are influenced as much by personal circumstances as by workplace realities.