Book Review: Paiso-How Sindhis do business

The Book ‘Paiso – How Sindhis Do Business’ is written by Maya Bathija, a journalist.

Sindhis are amongst the pioneering businessmen from India…the Hundi system of bill discounting is said to be their brain child.

They have always been known for their business savvy and sharp practices.As Ashok Hinduja writes in the foreword to book “Sindhis are opportunity centric and sector agnostic”

Mahatma Gandhi said this in 1947 : “If even a single Sindhi leaves Sindh, it will be a matter of shame to Mr. Jinnah as Governor General. The Sindhi Hindus are first- class businessmen. Why are they running away to Bombay, Madras & other places? It will not be they who will be losers, but Sindh. For they will make money for themselves, wherever they go.”

Sindhis were directly impacted by Partition which was a catastrophe for them. They left their ancestral homeland with literally nothing and then went out to rebuild their lives all over the world.

One story about Sindhi businessmen which is very well known in Mumbai circles and recounted in the book is as follows:

The early perception of Sindhis in Bombay in the post -Partition days was that a Sindhi would do almost anything to make even a small amount of money

If the shops around sold sugar for Re 1 a kg in bags of 50 kg, Sindhi businessmen would buy 50-kg bags of sugar and sell the commodity on the streets for 99 paise a kg.Their price being 1 paise cheaper per kg, they sold hundreds of bags of sugar, making a loss of 50 paise per 50 kg bag.

This amazed others and made them wonder why a person would work so hard to lose money.

What they failed to realized that every time a Sindhi businessman sold an empty bag for Re 1, he made a net profit of 50 paise on every 50-kg bag of sugar !

The Book covers the lives and careers of five Sindhi Businessmen:

  1. Harilela Family (Hong Kong)
  2. Ramola Motwani, Merrimac Ventures (Florida, USA)
  3. Harish Fabiani (Madrid)
  4. Dilip Kumar Lakhi (Mumbai)
  5. Jitu Virwani , Embassy Group (Bengaluru)

The Book has plenty of anecdotes and vignettes which I found interesting.Was a bit taken aback to know one of the Businessmen profiled (Harish Fabiani) is a fellow shareholder in the unlisted Suryoday Small Finance Bank !

Some common takeaways about Sindhi Businesses which I found in the book:

  • Global outlook-Willing to travel out of India in search of opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship Oriented-Being someone’s employee is looked down upon
  • Family Oriented-Rope in family members for different parts of the business
  • Less Scalable-There are hardly any listed companies owned by Sindhis as they don’t like the idea of outsiders in their business
  • Market Leadership-Willing to work for wafer thin margins for higher volumes and market share

Do buy this Book if interested in knowing more about Sindhi Businesses.

One reply on “Book Review: Paiso-How Sindhis do business”

Harish Fabiani was the investor in one of the startups I worked for and I remember seeing him, was quite a nice guy. He is related to Hindujas.

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