[NOTE: Updated to correct video links]
For the longest time, the recognition for richest Indian-American in the US belonged to Vinod Khosla, the billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Net worth = ~$1.5 billion.
Today, that recognition belongs to someone else. I would wager that he is someone most people have never heard of and no, he’s not a technology mogul, either.
Let’s talk about his product first. It’s pretty interesting.
When my team and I make the excruciatingly long journey to India for our regular business reviews, most people arrive late the night before or early the morning of the meetings. It’s crucially important that all of us are alert and mindfully present, especially on day one. So, some of these guys have taken to carrying a magic potion to make sure this happens. It’s called 5-Hour Energy.
The active ingredients in one of these bottles are (according to Wikipedia), in order of listing:
vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, sodium, taurine, glucuronolactone, malic acid, N-Acetyl L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, caffeine, and citicoline
The caffeine content alone is either 200 mg (regular) or 260 mg (extra strength). The caffeine of the regular size is comparable to that of a Starbucks venti cup of coffee. Potent (but not as tasty).
I am here to tell you that it works like a charm. And why not? One of those shots before the painful meetings in the midst of jet lag clears your brain, keeping you awake and alert for several hours.
To cut a long story short, the richest Indian-American in the US today is assumed to be Mr.Manoj Bhargava, the Chairman and CEO of the company behind this energy shot. Like all “overnight success stories”, this one has been in the making for over ten years. Undoubtedly, it’s taken a lot of smarts and hard work, not to mention bumps on the road.
After a roller-coaster journey since founding the company in 2004, [one that including fighting many legal battles on two fronts – defending against those who filed suit because of alleged health dangers of the drink, and those that the company proactively filed suit against for competitive and intellectual property infringement issues], this company posts some amazing financials.
I phrased that wrong. They don’t post anything because they are privately held. However, all the information and analysis available says that their annual sales exceed $1 billion, their annual revenues are in the $600-700 million range and their profits are an incredible $300 million. That’s a profit of 50%!
Manoj Bhargava’s net worth is assumed to be in the range of $1.5 to $5 billion and he has acknowledged that he is the richest Indian-American in the US at this time. [I either read that or saw an interview where he states this].
But, that’s really not what is most interesting about Mr. Bhargava.
In 2013, he signed The Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. His statement when he did this is worth noting. I encourage you to read it below:
But even that is not what is most interesting about Mr. Bhargava.
What really started my exploration about this man was this 3-minute video that someone had forwarded to me (thank you!). It is a trailer for a documentary called Billions in Change. Watch this short trailer first.
If video doesn’t appear above, you can also click here to view the trailer. You must!
Can you say RESPECT?
Now, after that wonderfully inspiring teaser, you can watch the entire documentary here; it was only released earlier this month:
If video doesn’t appear above, you can also click here to view the full documentary.
Do go to this website for more information: Billions In Change.
Here’s the premise it starts with:
Does that resonate with you? I sure hope it does!
Sure, it’s great to see who the richest Indian-American in the US happens to be, and the story of how he made it to the top in this land of opportunity.
But what is even better – in fact, it’s phenomenal – to see what this billionaire is doing with his wealth to actually, really change the world.
For those who want to know more about this relatively enigmatic billionaire and philanthropist, I recommend the following sources of information:
AIF NY Gala 2015 – Speech by Honoree Manoj Bhargava, Philanthropist, Founder & CEO, 5-Hour Energy – a stirring and insightful acceptance speech by Mr. Bhargava
- The political kingmaker nobody knows – not the most rosy pictures, focusing more on his politics and his enigmatic nature – by the Center of Public Integrity; a highly, credible source for deep and investigative journalism.
The Mystery Monk Making Billions With 5-Hour Energy, more dated (Feb 2012) but still interesting.
- A billionaire monk’s pledge to charity – a great interview with the philanthropist
Surprise, surprise, this is (kind of) a politics related post!
If you are anything like me or if you think even a little like me (I hope you are, I hope you do – otherwise why bother reading my blog?), then I guarantee that you will want to shoot me when you read this post. To make it easier on you, I give you permission to just shoot me now.
This is the most inconceivable thing that I could have ever imagined writing! It’s not so hard to imagine that I would be writing about politics. But the subject at hand and especially my opinion on this topic…that’s what is so unbelievable.
First, let’s rewind to the depressing pre-Obama era of the United States. [If you are a right wing nut, I’ve lost you now. But bear with me. It just might be worth your sticking around].
Anyway, back to pre-Obama. You do remember who was President, right? Not just for one, but two, extremely painful terms in office, after first stealing the election away from Al Gore. Yep, my opinion on that era or on who presided over this country has not changed one iota.
Last week, I was in an interesting position.
Attending a rather cozy (as opposed to huge) industry conference, I had the opportunity to attend the keynote presentation by none other than George W Bush. The reason it was such an interesting position to be in was because it was so conflicting.
On the one hand, given my low opinion of President George W Bush, why would I take the time to attend?
Yet. This man was after all once the President of the most powerful nation in the world, a country that I live in, am a citizen of and love. So, should I simply pass up this opportunity to watch and listen to an ex-President, up close and (almost) personal just because of my low opinion of him?
I made the smart choice. I attended the keynote in spite of my low opinions and expectations.
It ended up being not a keynote presentation behind a lectern but more of a “fireside chat” format (see the picture below from this conference) where a company executive sitting beside him asked President Bush some friendly questions. Even if he knew what some of the questions were, this was clearly off the cuff and unrehearsed on his part.
It was a warm crowd for him, given that the setting was among his home crowd of red-Texans. And he was obviously in his element. Yet, even knowing that all of these factors would enable a stellar performance from him, he still threw me for a loop. Which actually goes to show how low my opinion was.
Let me describe what my opinion of W was after witnessing this ~75 minute conversation, live and in person. That’s when (if you’re anything like me, or think like me), you get all flabbergasted, irked and irritated at what I am about to say.
[Opportunity #2 – so, you can just shoot me now instead and get it over with].
To say that my opinion of the man “changed” is an understatement. During that 75 minute conversation / interview, here are words to describe my quick impressions of W, some of which likely come as much of a surprise (shock?) to you as they did to me –
- Amusing, droll
- Smart as a whip
- Quick (as in, quick and spontaneous in his responses)
- Caring, warm
- Hilarious at times
- Content and happy with life
- A family man who adores his dad
- Extremely faith-based in how he thinks and lives
- Humanitarian, philanthropic (focused on veterans)
- Charming and witty
- And did I say, smart?
I guess one thing you can say about me, I do have an open mind. 🙂
By the end of that interview, I was confounded. There was no question that my impression of the man had changed. Not completely, but still…it struck me how quick we are to judge people (especially those in politics).
Does my opinion that he was bad for us as President remain? Absolutely. But behind that opinion were several other opinions of the man himself that were either misinformed, biased, or both.
I’m not planning to join his fan club or buy his paintings. [One could say he’s a talented portrait painter, where your art involves copying existing photographs in oils – we were shown a preview video of his paintings; he has painted most of the world leaders he knew and worked with. He is also the first person to say that his signature is more valuable than the paintings].
So back to the question, what now? I guess, now, if someone said I was going to buy one of his books to read, I wouldn’t LOL out of hand. It’s quite possible I may, some day.*
[Opportunity #3 – this is it. Your last chance. Shoot!].
* I’m done with reading all 22 Jack Reacher novels in existence and don’t see any new ones on the horizon, so…