The wealthy come in a myriad different guises – Gopichand Hinduja looks like the unmarried uncle everyone ignores; Lalit Modi looks like a character from the Indian version of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ whilst Narayan Murthy looks like a bored tax collector on the verge of retirement.
Appearances, however, are never more deceiving than in the case of the rich.
If there is one characteristic that all rich and powerful people share it is their ruthlessness – a single-minded determination to succeed, often at any cost.
Few British Asian tycoons embody that aggression – literally and metaphorically – than Dr Diwan Rahul Nanda, the imposing Chief Executive of the international security solutions provider Topsgrup.
Prior to making his name in Britain, Dr Nanda – the martial arts-loving son of an Indian army major – had already made a name for himself in India, from providing security “solutions” to Bollywood stars and Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks to living Mumbai’s famous ‘Page 3 Lifestyle’ (an allusion to the city’s party lifestyle as opposed the British version of the same).
In 2008, he burst on to Britain’s conscience with the audacious takeover of the Shield Guarding Company, one of the UK’s oldest security companies.
The flamboyant Dr Nanda’s entry into Britain’s staid old security business caused a minor storm – an ambitious young tycoon from Mumbai who worked hard, partied harder and with a penchant for expensive wheels from Crewe, squaring up against an industry which still resembles the dark and brooding Cold War-era world depicted in John le Carre’s novels.
It’s the result, according to Dr Nanda, of being in possession of “balls of steel”.
‘The name’s Nanda. Diwan Rahul Nanda.’ The tycoon with one of his numerous toys from the storied factories of Crewe. “5 DRN” is a clue to the number of toys. The thrusting, masculine Bentley was, of course, the original 007’s great love before Sean Connery decided to adopt the more “elegant” Aston Martin DB5. The wheel arches on the Bentley appear to match Dr Nanda’s much-worked biceps.
In 2012, Dr Nanda also made it to the Sunday Times Rich List with a net worth of £168 million, a figure that is significantly higher today, although it’s a bit hit-and-miss to gauge exactly, certainly even for the Times.
“I have little inclination of my ‘wealth'”, Dr Nanda says. “My money is tied up in the business”.
Today the companies he controls provide security solutions – everything from men at the gate to risk assessments and high tech surveillance – to clients such as IBM, Apple, Pepsi, the Tata Group and the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The 44-year-old Mumbaikar’s journey, from running a small Chinese takeaway in his hometown to winning entrepreneurship awards in London, is all the more remarkable due his detour to Britain, where he lives in the wealthy and quaint village of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire – a far cry from the revelry of Park Lane and Bandra.
I caught up with Dr Nanda to talk reverse migration, security solutions, Stoke Poges, his legacy and his beloved daughters.