Kenya born Indian and his wife rake in $2 billion from sale of their firm

Letter from New Delhi

With the couple (Bharat Desai and his wife Neeja Sethi) recently selling Syntel to French technology services major Atos SE for $3.4 billion, their fortunes are going to see a sharp turnaround

A Kenya-born Indian, who grew up in Mombasa, educated in Mumbai and settled in USA, has sold his IT company for two billion dollars. Yes, a cool two billion dollars.

Bharat Desai and his wife Neeja Sethi co-founded Syntel in 1980 in their apartment in Troy, Michigan, according to a front-page story in the Times of India on Tuesday. The news is also published by Business Standard.

Bharat went to Mumbai and studied at its IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and migrated to USA. Desai met Sethi in the US while he was working as a programmer for IT firm Tata Consultancy Services. Starting off as business partners, Desai and Sethi later got married. With an initial investment of just $2,000 in their apartment in Troy, Michigan, in 1980, they pulled in a mere $30,000 in first-year sales. When General Motors became its client in 1982, it got a big boost. Syntel generated revenues of $924 million in 2017.

Now French IT outsourcing major Atos acquired Michigan-based Syntel for $3.4 billion. Since Bharat Desai and Neerja Sethi together held a 57% stake in Syntel, they have received nearly $2 billion from the sale of their company to the French information technology services group. Sethi, 63, was serving as the vice-president of Syntel, while Desai, 65, was the co-chairman of the company, according to the Times of India.

Today, the company employs 23,000 engineers in 30 countries. It has around 18,000 employees in India, constituting roughly a little over 78% of its global workforce. The banking, financial services and insurance sector are the biggest focus area for Syntel, which gets over 45% of its revenues from the segment. North America accounts for close to 90% of Syntel’s gross revenues.

Earlier this month, Neerja Sethi made it to the Forbes‘ list of America’s 60 richest self-made women. Sethi has been ranked 21st with a net worth of one billion dollars. Desai ranked 1999 in Forbes’ 2018 list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $1.1 billion. His real-time net worth as of July 24, 2018, was $1.6 billion, according to Forbes. Nasdaq-listed Syntel is an India-centric IT outsourcer.

A spirited discussion is seen among the Times of India readers about whether this couple is Indian. Please don’t call them Indians, wrote a reader, the moment they left reservation and corruption infested India, they became Americans. Wrote another reader, “He has an Indian origin. At best he is a Kenyan or American.’ Others lauded their achievement and congratulated them.

* * *

 Huffing and Puffing after Happiness

When you walk, your shadow walks with you. Whether you see it or not, it is always with you. You cannot be without your shadow. When you are running after happiness, like your shadow, unhappiness is running with you although you may not see or feel it. The American Declaration of Independence maintains, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

For 300 years, Americans have been huffing and puffing after happiness but have not yet found it because it is a pursuit and not a goal. And today, most poor nations follow the USA in this exhausting pursuit that brings material wealth thought to be happiness. With its negative shadow accompanying it, happiness remains a mirage. Sex can bring stress. Luxuries can bring misery as you guard them or they generate jealousy. Health becomes disease; friends turn into enemies, family transforms into anxiety.

So, how to become happy?

Happiness is not being positive all the time. You cannot eat ten cakes at one time. You need some spice and sour treats as well. After you get spicy, sour or even bitter experiences, positive experiences are all the more welcome and enjoyable.

Happiness is not owning luxury goods

Numerous surveys have found that the happiest experiences are not due to goods or products but experiences and relationships. Even the most expensive luxury goods cannot uplift your mood when you are sad but a friend can do it in no time.

Happiness is not a journey’s end. Do you ‘arrive’ at happiness terminus? No. You are travelling all the time and happiness can be a stopover or a part of the journey, not its end as life goes on, up and down.

Happiness is not drinks/food and/or sex

Not at all because there is a limit to all these passions. First, your body has a limit. Second, the after-effects of over consumption are serious on health. Third, overdose. Too much of any of these causes rejection. Enough! Augh!

Osho comments, “There are people who cannot understand that happiness is possible in any way other than sex. There are people who cannot understand that there is any bliss beyond sex. There are people who cannot understand that there is any happiness except in food. There are people who cannot understand that there is any happiness except in big houses, big cars, much money, power and prestige.” So what is the answer?

What is happiness?

Osho answers, “Bliss is true happiness. What you call happiness is just misery in disguise. What you call happiness is nothing but entertainment, pleasure. It is momentary — it cannot be true. Truth has to have one quality, and the quality is of eternity. If something is true it is eternal; if it is untrue it is momentary. True happiness is found only when the mind completely ceases functioning. It does not come from the outside. It wells up within your own being, it starts overflowing you. You become luminous. You become a fountain of bliss.”

Drop happiness and unhappiness. Only then you can attain bliss. Nothing less will do.


Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi


* Published in print edition on 27 July 2018

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