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The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  956 ratings  ·  134 reviews
A colorful and revealing portrait of the rise of India's new billionaire class in a radically unequal society

India is the world's largest democracy, with more than one billion people and an economy expanding faster than China's. But the rewards of this growth have been far from evenly shared, and the country's top 1% now own nearly 60% of its wealth. In megacities like
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by Tim Duggan Books
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Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

Katherine Boos Behind the Beautiful Forevers is only mentioned briefly in James Crabtrees excellent look at the super rich of India, The Billionaire Raj. I found this fact interesting because I request the book via Netgalley precisely because I have read and taught Boos book. Granted, Crabtrees book is a study of the extreme upper class so slums really dont enter into the book. Yet, and Crabtree knows this, it is impossible to read this book, in particularly the
Maciej Nowicki
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Billionaire Raj talks about The economy of India and its development path from 1991 to around 2010. I think its important to say that from 1947, when India won its independence from Britain, until 1991 it had been a closed, central planning economy. The whole business had been built on a closed and strictly limited system of licences, permits and tariffs. Then, in 1991, India has ended the central planning system and re-opened itself to the world. This is the period of early ...more
Manoj Meda
James Crabtree takes the readers through a journey into contemporary Indian economic scenario and draws parallels to the current state of crony capitalism in india to the gilded age in the US. The book is exhilarating and provides an excellent overview of the economic and political state of India since the liberalization of the economy in the early 90s. The author demonstrates a thorough understanding of the Indian state of affairs through a mix of history, statistics and personal interviews. ...more
Ankur Vohra
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Was really excited about this book- ordered it from amazon on the release date itself and to be really true, I am a little dis-appointed with this- was expecting a lot more insights into the the how and why of "Bollygarchs" which is the title given by the writer to new age billionaires in India. Over all it is a good and fast read for anyone interested in the contemporary sociopolitical and economic scenario in India and I do like the writers analogy of similarities in current economic scenario ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A topical commentary on India delivered from the PoV of its billionaires - primarily industrialists, but also media moguls and politicians - disguising a wide commentary on the state-of-affairs of the country. James Crabtree was the FT correspondent in India for 5+ years, an 'outsider', and his access to first hand interviews, masterfully collected and delivered in great journalistic style, is a literary achievement by itself. He has weaved together narratives ranging from Amma's dictatorial ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
After reading several glowing reviews of this book, I was extremely excited to read about the eccentric billionaires in Indias new gilded age. I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo previously and wanted to learn more about the wealth disparity in this country where the countrys top one percent now own nearly sixty percent of its wealth.

The most enjoyable part of this book for me was the very beginning:

The Shadow Of Antilia

Mal Warwick
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The Biltmore Estate sprawls across 8,000 acres in Asheville, North Carolina. With 179,000 square feet, the former residence of George Vanderbilt is the largest private home in the United States. Few private residences anywhere rival the sheer ostentation of the Biltmore Estate.

The most glaring exception is the home of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Antilia rises 160 meters (525 feet) above South Mumbai and encompasses 400,000 square feet. Ambani built the 27-story home at an estimated cost of
A Man Called Ove
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 In the last 10-15 years, a lot of India ye , India wo, India falana, India dhikana books have come out by both Indian and foreign journalists. One has to be a bit careful in selecting as the writing can be really shallow and shabby. Recently, I liked the books by Patrick French and Edward Luce and this too caught my eye as it seemed to be on a specific theme - crony capitalism.
I am in a fix to whether rate it as 3* or 4*. Because I listen to a lot of podcasts with analysis etc, much of it
Siddhartha Banerjee
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I appreciate this book for providing a larger context and explanation of the different social, economic, and political forces in India that I've been exposed to, each in isolation, throughout my life.
Vivek Vikram Singh
This is a book where the hypothesis and maybe even the pithy title were formed first and then facts and perspectives were shaped to fit the robber barons of the gilded age narrative. Disappointing book with little scholarly merit. A few billionaires fitting the narrative are analysed borrowing Ruchir Sharmas brilliant bad billionaire framework while several of Indias self made and less colourful billionaires were excluded as they would not fit this saga of corruption, influence and ill gotten ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dont judge a book by its cover - or the awards it gets...

Before the 2008 recession hit the Indian zeitgeist, it was abuzz with the narrative of the success stories of business tycoons, especially in the city of Hyderabad where I was based - some were rags-to-riches stories while others were stories of how traditional family businesses had pivoted into consumer focussed industries, starting with the construction and maintenance of airports and malls and venturing into all kinds of other
Raj Sinha
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Mckay
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
The title and subtitle are very descriptive of what you will find in this book:

Billionaire Raj: focuses on stories of wealthy individuals, not India as a whole.

A journey: don't expect nuanced theses, this is a collection of narratives with only a loose connective thread....

Through India's new gilded age: that connective thread is that Indian development has been unequal and corrupt. The author draws shallow comparisons to the American gilded age, but I left the book feeling like the connection
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book briefly explains the crony capitalism problem of India. It takes good examples of personal, business sectors and government departments to help a reader understand the issue. Someone much more familiar with the matters will find this book more like an introduction, however for the uninitiated this will be a very interesting read.
This is a very lazy piece of work.

It seems the author just wanted to spend time around the super-rich people, enjoying their homes, jets and wines, and decided to write a book about them for this very purpose! He actually comes across in this book as someone who wanted to be able to say 'hey, I hung out with that investment tycoon when he made that crude remark about women - and it isn't Trump!' I am not even sure he actually did all the 'interviews' as part of research for this book and not as
This was an informative and well-written book. I recommend it with a small caveat. I would advise reading a quick Wikipedia entry on modern Indian history (specifically focusing on India's Independence) before picking this book up. At times, I felt a bit bogged down by the political details but thankfully I was reading on my Kindle which allowed easy access to Wikipedia for further reading.

This book goes into great detail examining how corruption is deeply embedded in Indian society - especially
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Tozer was concerned that the church no longer had right thinking toward God. Modern Christians had lost a sense of the majesty of God. He wrote The Knowledge of the Holy to help Christians know the character of God and His attributes. My favorite section was on the eternity of God. [God] has no past and no future. (73) For Him everything that will happen has already happened. (74) His explanation of the immutability of God was very understandable too. He also has a good chapter on living in ...more
Nilesh Injulkar
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The book is so relevant to todays economical and political conditions in India, that it becomes an interesting read quickly. The books covers how crony capitalism rose in India after liberation of Indian economic in early 90s, its effects on social, political state of the country.

It goes through list of super rich bollygarchs from Ambanis to Mallya to Adani to south Indian politician-businessmen and how they controlled the governments for their benefits.

Coverage of scams of last decade gives you
Vidhya Nair
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Ive read most of the books written by FT correspondents who lived in India as part of their job. Because of the FT, they gain access to major business and political figures of contemporary India and often these correspondents are intellectual, inquisitive and research and engage in many candid observations on the changes happening in India. You can see more than anything how india changes them personally too. Same for this author. Much of what he writes is what we do read from the news. Its a ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
In "The Billionaire Raj", James Crabtree, formerly the Mumbai bureau chief for the Financial Times analyzes India's Gilded age which was triggered by the 1991 financial reform. He compares it to the rise of the robber barons in America in the late 19th century. The book is divided into 3 sections - The Rise of the "Bollygarchs" - the Indian super-rich, Crony Capitalism and thirdly, the Boom and Bust cycle of the Indian economy and where it stands now. A lot of the topics covered, stories of ...more
Sean Paterson
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I can only imagine the authors elation as he plucked out another big word from the dictionary, elation at the expense of the readership. It's a shame this grandiloquence sticks in my mind, as the reporting is fantastic.
Deepak Gulati
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A thorough insight into the mechanics of corruption in India. Also explores the challenges that the current and the future governments would face over the next decade.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a good reportage on post-liberalization India story of incredible growth and concomitant corruption (particularly big ticket corruption of last decade). Focus is on crony capitalism and inequality, and how it may affect growth and development in India if left unchecked. This is not a theoretical book but a series of journalistic stories highlighting different shades of corruption, how it works, and what are possible root causes. What would have enriched the book are some solutions and way ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty detailed if youre interested in the deep details of Indian economy and society. Probably boring to you otherwise. ...more
Aakash Mehta
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
While this book starts off well by examining the history of some of India's prominent billionaires, it then transforms into a political rant about how the BJP and Congress have affected India. I do appreciate some of the linkages made between the capitalist and political system, but this book focuses too much on the political side without any recommendations for addressing the issues or how other countries are dealing with any of these issue.

Read the specific chapters that are of interest to you
Rama Chaithanya Ganapa
The author tries to explain how India is more similar to America rather than UK in terms of economic development post liberalization in 1991. Goes to the extent of explaining all the new born billionaires holds such an influence they can literally dictate the law.

"If Russia is an oligarchy, how long can we resist calling India one?"

"Too many businesses were accumulating wealth because of their ability to manage the government rather than manage innovation,"

What is briefly explained well is, how
This reviewer is too close to the subject matter to provide a review applicable to most other readers. These are my impressions from my viewpoint.

For the most part, the book provides a lucid, well-written account of "stories" of India's rich and powerful. Like in most societies since time immemorial, India's elite has substantial control of the nation's affairs. The author argues that the disproportionality is far more than normal or beneficial, which is fair. The tales also suggest the unusual
Luciana Vichino
Interesting reading

Intense and agile starts very well but becomes a bit tiring towards the end when the chapters are all about politics with too many names and examples about the same stuff. A good portrait of India and an interesting reference to other emerging markets.
Skanda Shridhar
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
James Crabtree arrived in India in 2007, an interesting time for me personally, as I had left India for Canada in 2006. I remember the palpable optimism of the time (to whatever degree a 16-year-old can sense such things), most exemplified by Time's June 26, 2006 article "India Inc". As Crabtree notes, the Indian economy had been on a tear and it seemed like times were good.

What was less known to people like me is what happened next. That's where this book steps into the picture. Now the blank
Nallasivan V.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Given the promising premise it had, the book was disappointing in some ways. The title, tagline and even the blurbs seemed to suggest a well-researched book that would reveal the inner workings of crony capitalism in India. But what we get is a part-memoir and part-secondary research narrative that would have been a long economist article.

As an economist article would do, this book makes sweeping generalizations that skims over a complex issue leaving out nuances. Even the secondary research
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Attribution to Author 5 20 Nov 21, 2018 09:23AM  

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James Crabtree is an associate professor of practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He was formerly the Mumbai bureau chief for the Financial Times.

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“Speaking in 1916, Mohandas Gandhi warned that India faced a pernicious new kind of commercialism. ‘Western nations are groaning today under the heel of the monster god materialism,’ he told students at a college in the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh. ‘Many of our countrymen say that we will gain American wealth, but avoid its methods. I venture to suggest that such an attempt, if it were made, is foredoomed to failure.’27 Gandhi’s views were rooted in his own era, chiming with the theories of anti-colonialism and non-violent protest that earned him the title ‘Mahatma’, or ‘great soul’ in Sanskrit. Almost a century later, his warnings seemed prescient.” 0 likes
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