How to invest like Rakesh Jhunjhunwala


The ringing of a cell phone has never seemed so out of place to me as it did at this moment. I crouch in the dirt between poor huts - scraps of plastic over crooked frames made of kindling - at the campfire of the construction workers of Jodhpur. Above us, the Maharaja's palace shines in the light of the evening sun. Down here on his land they are building a settlement of elegant houses that will satisfy the most pampered demands. The sale will fill His Highness coffers - the profit margins are enormous. The workers around me toil for the equivalent of two euros a day for twelve hours until they are evicted in the evening - over to the other side of the street. The tanker with water goes there, the only "social benefit" of the construction company.

The workers come from the state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorhouses of the vast subcontinent. Most of them brought their families with them to this pathetic camp. So they are not alone and even the children can work and earn money. None of them complain. You have the feeling that you are one step further than others because the starvation wages here are still twice as high as at home. Now I want to talk to them in peace and try to understand. No telephone should interfere here. Before I put the conversation aside, I recognize the familiar number of Subodh Sapra, one of my most interesting interlocutors in Bombay.

Two days later he greets me with a warm laugh at the impressive headquarters of the Reliance Group at the port of the booming metropolis. "Well, where did I bother you?" I tell him about the workers of Jodhpur, about the impoverished, desperate cotton farms of Andhra Pradesh, about the suicides in the families of the weavers in a small village near Hyderabad where we shot to have.

He listens thoughtfully to me, but then comes an admonition: “Don't forget modern India about that. Do you have a day? I want to show you something. ”The next morning a company helicopter picks us up from the Bombay polo field. He flies to the synthetic fiber factory of the huge company that, under Subodh Sapra's supervision, has become the world market leader for polyester. They proudly show us British and American certificates confirming the highest standards in safety and environmental protection. "A few years ago we bought Trevira in Germany, and we had to send our engineers to them so that they could meet our environmental standards," laughs Sapra. “That was a big surprise. It is not enough for us to just produce most of the fibers in the world. We want to be the best and not be dependent on anyone. "

A company jet flies us on to Jamnagar in the northwest of the continent. There Reliance is expanding its refinery to become the largest in the world in record time. Out in the bay are their own tankers that deliver the crude oil from their own fields on the Persian Gulf. “We close the production chain,” explains Sapra, “from oil exploration to plastics. We'll be among the best everywhere. ”His final stop will be the Reliance polyester development center.

A breathtakingly modern, elegant glass palace on the water, which Bill Gates would also move into without hesitation. "We value design," he says confidently. "After all, the best minds in the world should work here."

I can't hide the fact that I was impressed by the tour of violence through the company. "Should we Europeans wake up one day and rub our eyes and ask how the hell India could have left us like that?"

"Yes, you got it right," replies Sapra very calmly. »India was once the leading cultural and scientific nation on earth. We are rediscovering that now. We don't talk about it much. Only when people like you come - and really want to understand, we explain ourselves. You will see: India will change the world. «Subodh Sapra takes the critical wind out of my sails for a moment. Nobody has described the task that we have set ourselves with this documentation in a more beautiful way. We want to show our viewers at least some of the fascinating, contrasting facets of this vast country. Our image of India is still determined by moguls and fakirs and by the exploited workers at the extended workbench of Europe. It is high time to enrich this image - it is part of the core competency of public television. The competition with the new, self-confident India will have a say in Europe's future.

At one of the many universities that send 170,000 engineers onto the market every year, we got to know the irrepressible optimism of the next generation. The economics professor walks up and down in front of his class like a coach. "Do you know where the most important raw material of the future is?" He calls into the lecture hall and hits his forehead with his fist. "Up here! Knowledge, craftsmanship, technical skill, quality awareness. Nobody can beat India in this field. You will determine the future of the planet. America is still on the high horse. But in reality they are afraid of you there. And Europe believes we are a people who have had their great days behind them. They think only snake charmers live here. They'll be amazed! «The students smile a little embarrassed at our camera - but they have long believed in this message.

But every day the Indian reality catches up with us. A neglected infrastructure, run-down railways, clogged, holey streets, airports that defy description. Again and again, everywhere, terrible poverty. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the bull from Bombay on the stock exchange, does not let any of my concerns stand when I counter his foaming optimism with my impressions. "Under these conditions we create eight to ten percent economic growth every year," he says, while his eyes restlessly wander over flat screens that break down his stock assets. Jhunjhunwala knows what he's talking about. He invested a hundred dollars saved in the Bombay "native stock exchange" in the early 1980s and has been riding the wave of the boom ever since. His fortune is now estimated at three quarters of a billion dollars. No pessimism is to be expected from him. "India is a marathon runner without shoes," he says. “But we're working on it. Every day. Soon the shoes will be ready. And then the world will experience something. ”Even the 600 million poor in the country are growth potential for him. “These people started dreaming. Every year 30 million people rise to the middle class. More than there are employees in Germany. You want cars and houses and computers and schooling for your children. Our ascent can no longer be stopped. "

The encounter with Rakesh is the end of almost six weeks in India, repeatedly commuting between the moderator's table on the Lerchenberg and the filming locations on the subcontinent. It was a time that was at the limit of my capabilities, but an adventure that changed my worldview.

I am still dazed from the thousand impressions and from the long flight through the night when I land in Frankfurt the next morning. In the taxi, the news from the car radio greets me. After months of strikes, the union and employer have agreed to extend working hours by a few minutes less than planned. Thunderstorm!

Do we have any idea what is in store for us in the world? I feel more and more that our film is important.

P.S. The two-part documentary "India - unstoppable" by Claus Kleber and Angela Andersen (editor Katja Schupp) achieved market shares of 19.2 and 11.4 percent at the beginning of September 2006. There is no lack of public interest in this type of public service information.