The Business Rajahs

They are the ruling families of India's great companies. How will they fare in the new economy?

The end of the British Raj in 1947 witnessed the creation of a new power in Indian business: the corporate dynasty. Aided by solid political and business connections, India's versions of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers set up conglomerates that swelled and diversified without having to respond to consumer demand. With exclusive access to government licenses and plenty of regulations to keep competition at bay, businesses thrived. This arrangement suited a society used to the rule of maharajahs, where princes assumed divine right to rule and clung to a sense of entitlement whether deserved or not.

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