Nusli Wadia is in the news for varying reasons. As a grandson of the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and also as a blue-blooded Indian tycoon who has nursed and grown a business empire. Vir Sanghvi interviewed him on CNBC-TV18 in the ‘Tycoons’ series. Excerpts.
I began talking about generational change it is no secret now, around the time you really entered the business your father was on the verge of selling out to the Goenkas — you fought him, you said you were going to stay on, you said your future was in India, you are going to make a go of things even though he thought India was changing for honest and decent people to do business. Looking back after all these years any regrets?
No regret on the decision. The regret is that in some ways my father was prophetic….I will never leave here. But when he said it would become very difficult to do for honest people, the answer is yes, that he was right about. In fact, if you ask me candidly, it’s worst that he would have imagined. With liberalisation one thought the involvement of government and the activity of government in business would diminish. It hasn’t. It has increased because the richer opportunities in business are still controlled by government and when they control them that is where it starts.It is no secret at in the 1980’s particularly you went through a very bad patch, when there was almost a sense that government was ranged against you and if I remember correctly, they even tried to deport you and claimed you weren’t an Indian — at that stage were there any regrets?
No, not at all. There the issue was I did not agree with what was happening and as a citizen I was expressing my own view. Ramnathji (Goenka, Indian Express chairman who crusaded against Rajiv Gandhi’s government) and I worked together and frankly the issue was that Ramnathji took on the establishment and I was part of that activity and I have no regrets for it.
So do you recognise Jinnah genes in you?
Jinnah was a tough guy. He was a fighter. He was the guy who never let go.
Yes he stuck to what he believed and he pursued it. You can agree with what he pursued, you can disagree with what he pursued — that’s the debate at the moment for which people are paying the price but anyway.
When you see this debate happening, many of the people involved are actually very close friends of yours. Jaswant Singh (author of controversial biography of Jinnah) — it is no secret he is a close friend of yours.
Yes a very close friend.
On the subject of Jaswant Singh. One suggestion the BJP’s putting about is that you actually financed the book —that you made Jaswant Singh do it to glorify your grandfather. Is that accurate?
Using intemperate language on television is not actually allowed otherwise I would really say something on that. That’s nonsense. Absolute nonsense, I mean a man is going to spend five-years writing a book for Nusli Wadia — what has Nusli Wadia got to do with Jaswant Singh?