When you think millionaire, what image comes to mind? For many of us, it’s one who flies a private jet, owns several homes and expensive cars and lives a flashy lifestyle—affording most of it with loads of inherited wealth.
But many modern millionaires started out the hard way, live in middle-class neighbourhoods, work full-time and shop at discount stores like the rest of us. “For the rich, it’s not about getting more stuff. It’s about having the freedom to make almost any decision you want,” says T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. Wealth means you can send your child to any school or resign from a job you don’t like.
According to the Merrill Lynch-Capgemini World Wealth Report 2011, the number of Indian millionaires (those who have a net worth of at least Rs5 crore, the equivalent of nearly a million US dollars, not counting the value of their primary residence) had more than doubled to 153,000 in two years.* (And remember, those counted here comprise only those who report their true incomes and pay their taxes.) Anyway, that figure is expected to triple in the next two years, according to a report in The Economic Times.
If more people are getting richer than ever, why shouldn’t you work hard and be one of them? Here, three self-made millionaires share the secrets that helped them get there.
No Guts, No Glory
Thirty years ago, Patricia Narayan hardly seemed on the road to wealth. Just into her 20s, she lived with her two small children and an abusive, alcoholic husband who couldn’t keep his job. “It was miserable and so hard to make ends meet, I returned to my parents’ home and yearned for a better life,” says Patricia. Today she’s a 54-year-old Chennai caterer and restaurant-chain owner.
There was one big reason Patricia pulled ahead of others in her situation: Instead of moaning about her failing marriage, she decided she had to earn for herself and the kids and not be a burden to her family, although both her parents were gainfully employed.
Being ambitious and determined to succeed are crucial first steps. “The biggest obstacle to wealth is fear,” says Eker. “People are afraid to think big, but if you think small, you’ll only achieve small things.”
It all started after friends and neighbours routinely praised her cooking, something Patricia enjoyed. “They relished my pickles, jams and squashes. So I began to sell some to them,” she says. Next, she opened a food-kiosk at Chennai’s Marina Beach. “It was a whole year’s struggle getting the licence, but once I started, I made sure my home-made cutlets, sandwiches and other snacks were the best available there,” says Patricia, who worked 16-hour days to cook, pack and sell, with the help of her husband and five employees. In a few years, she was also supplying food to the canteens of three big organizations, including a bank.
Meanwhile, Patricia’s life wasn’t a bed of roses. Her marriage unravelled and she got a divorce in 1991. In 2004, her daughter Prateepha and son-in-law died in a road accident, soon after they were married. After that Praveen, her son, resigned from his merchant navy job to join the business.
Realizing that Prateepha had died in an accident-prone area with no nearby medical facilities, Patricia started a free ambulance service to cover that stretch of highway.
“All along, it was hard work that kept my mind off the problems in my personal life,” she says. In 2006, Patricia opened Sandheepa, her own restaurant, which has since grown to 19 outlets in Chennai.
In 2009, Patricia won a coveted Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Woman of the Year Award. “When you are determined, the odds are in your favour,” she says. “I constantly think about how to do better, and that usually gives me good ideas.”