16 Mar 2018
This Mumbai banker became a billionaire by serving India's richest
In 1995, IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus Nirmal Jain set up Probity Research, one of India's first equity-research firms.
This was when the internet had just penetrated the country. Jain took the chance and went online, creating India Infoline (IIFL).
In the next years, led by Jain, it managed the wealth of thousands of billionaires.
And now he has hit the jackpot himself and become a billionaire.
How the young trader started his journey
Jain had come from a family of commodity traders in Rajasthan. After graduating from the IIM-A, he decided to continue his background and joined Hindustan Unilever's commodity export business in 1989.
By 1999, he was supervising IIFL.
CDC was the first private equity firm to invest, infusing $1mn into IIFL. Intel and other big names followed.
From surviving the internet bubble burst to employing 13,000 people
In the early 2000s, the internet bubble burst and funding vanished. IIFL managed to survive and grow, diversifying into life insurance, mutual fund distribution, equities and other services.
Today, it has over 1,300 offices globally, employs 13,000 people, and caters to 40L customers including 10,000 high/ultra-high net worth individuals.
Its net worth has been estimated at $778mn (Rs. 4969cr), according to its website.
Jain attributes his growth to India's hardworking millennials
In the last year, IIFL's value more than doubled. Jain has credited it to India's millennials, who constitute 47% of the workforce and are toiling to create wealth.
They haven't inherited wealth, "so they have a lot of passion and attachment to it," he says.
A February report by Deloitte India/Retailers Association of India predicted the demographic's importance in consumption will only grow.
A stake in IIFL plus investments in spinoff firms
This week, for the first time, Jain's net worth touched $1bn (Rs. 6,490cr), according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
His fortune comes from a 23% stake in IIFL, plus investment in 5Paisa Capital Ltd, a spinoff firm.
He now has over 25,000 followers on Twitter.
Girish Kulkarni, an IIM-A batchmate, says Jain continues to take inspiration from "traditional Indian brokers."
What's next for one of the world's newest billionaires?
For now, Jain is mulling the future ownership of his empire. Eldest daughter Harshita, who studied chartered accountancy, is in line, but he is sure he wants her to "work outside for five years before she joins the company."
But personal wealth isn't a high-priority goal, he says, adding he isn't interested in keeping score. "I just do my work."
Do you know?
Some of the billionaire's favorites
The banker likes to relax on the beaches of Hawaii, and vouches for horse-riding in Matheran (Maharashtra) as a means of refreshment. He loves Mexican street food in San Diego (California, US). For a drink, he likes to pop in to Buddha Bar.