By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
Elon Musk’s financial muscle is being felt all over the world. After buying Twitter for $44 billion in cash a few days back, Musk is now joking that Coca-Cola is next on his shopping list. In a list of 2668 billionaires worldwide, India has 166 of them. But few Indian billionaires make news for such audacious business deals as Musk has just illustrated by acquiring Twitter. At a lightning pace, his offer for Twitter which he said was his best and finally landed the most influential social media platform in his lap. Besides, everything about Tesla’s CEO is as enigmatic as awe-inspiring his businesses are.
Elon Musk is 50 years old, has been married thrice, and has 7 children. He was almost getting married for the fourth time but it seems he junked the plan because he doesn’t have time for family life. Famous Canadian singer Grimes and Musk were in a relationship between 2018 and 2021 and has a boy born on 4 May 2020 and named X Æ A-Xii. If you have difficulty pronouncing this name, you can simply call him X. This name is inspired by artificial intelligence and many other things. Musk says he doesn’t have a home and he sleeps in friends’ spare bedrooms. Grimes is now a semi-girlfriend because Musk doesn’t have time to engage in a full-scale relationship.
Musk’s first startup PayPal is worth $101 billion today. The system he is trying to put in place at Tesla can one day produce a million cars every day. His space exploration company SpaceX will launch 52 flights in 2022. Another of his ventures, Starlink is ready to provide low-latency (high-speed) internet to the entire globe through low-orbit earth satellites, in contrast to underwater cables that provide the internet service now. His company holds bitcoin on its balance sheet and his Japanese hunter dog breed ShibaInu is the muse of a dozen altcoins, including one named after his dog Floki, that holds roughly $100 billion in valuation.
Do all these even remotely sound like an Indian entrepreneur? Gautam Adani, the richest Indian at the moment thanks to positive fluctuations in the shares of some of his companies, and Mukesh Ambani, whose Reliance Industries is currently riding high on Indian retail business selling from groceries to diamonds, do not exude the confidence that Elon Musk brings in his conversations.
That said we must agree that money has no color and anyone who has it can use it.
Coming back to Musk, what is it that makes him think of all those impossible businesses — from electric cars to space travel? Why is he not interested in buying airports or selling diamonds, for instance? Or why India is not producing entrepreneurs with the mindset that Musk displays?
It’s about India’s work culture! Take, for example, co-working space provider WeWork. This multinational company offers working space from $100 a month upwards. What it offers is a few furniture pieces and internet in a building that it rents for this business wherever it goes. India with 1.4 billion people which is a little shy of Europe’s population twice over or 3.5 times that of America, Canada, and South Africa put together doesn’t have a co-working culture.
Indian public infrastructures like schools, colleges, hospitals, parks, and railway stations are highly under-utilized. India has millions of people yearning for a place to work, set up a small business, or network and collaborate with the people in their niche. Parks have manicured greens, trees and flowers, fancy lighting, benches, but no electrical outlets to charge a laptop, for instance. When we can’t provide even so little as electricity to charge a laptop, how can you expect the same system to provide the seed money, working capital, and money to grow and expand businesses to millions of people across the country?
The phenomenon that Elon Musk is today is rooted in his upbringing and his ability to think big and slog. For a business to be successful and enduring, it has to offer credible solutions to a nagging problem. So, selling edible oil is a big business in India and Adani is a top player there as also in airports, seaports, and green energy. The 1.4 billion people need groceries and mobile phones so we’ve Ambanis with their Reliance stores and Jio cellular plans. This columnist, like millions of other Indians, is using all of these products every day. So, no grouses against Adanis and Ambanis! Let their lot grow and become bigger so that we have enough edible oil, groceries, and data on our cellphones!
But we must produce a few Elon Musks, Bill Gates, and Larry Pages so that India, too, can dream beyond the mundane. And, all it requires is a culture and attitude that encourage work and entrepreneurship. (IPA Service)