New Delhi: He’s the son of a man who was a rebel in a rather conservative business family, became a charismatic sports entrepreneur and is now a fugitive. Ruchir Modi, 22, is the son of Lalit Modi—who is best known for conceptualizing the Indian Premier League (IPL), the T20 cricket tournament that changed the way the game was viewed and played in India. Lalit Modi moved to London in 2010, shortly after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched an investigation.
Ruchir Modi was still in school then. In March 2016, soon after he graduated from Regents University, London, Ruchir was appointed director of the estimated $2.8-billion K.K. Modi group’s flagship tobacco business Godfrey Phillips India Ltd (GPI), holding company Modi Enterprises, networking marketing arm Modicare and restaurant business Peyotito in London.
Ruchir is currently in India for a couple of reasons. He is in the race for the post of president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA). The election is on 26 April. This post was held by his father between 2005 and 2009 and again since 2014 to date.
Secondly, he wants to expand GPI’s tobacco business in new markets such as Africa and enter new businesses, real estate development and micro-finance. The last is important because Modi says he is keen to build his own empire.
Ruchir is currently better known as Lalit Modi’s son, K.K. Modi’s grandson, and for his flashy lifestyle. He drives a Ferrari when in London (cricket is written on its licence plate), and either an Aston Martin or a Mercedes Benz in Mumbai (where he is accompanied by bodyguards). He travels in private jets, has often been spotted in Page 3 parties, and puts it all out on Instagram.
He became the president of the Alwar Cricket Association in August 2016.
In the run-up to the RCA election later this month, Ruchir met the members and office-bearers of RCA, which has been facing a suspension from the Board of Control for Cricket in India as a punishment for electing Lalit Modi as its president, in Jaipur last month. “They haven’t met or spoken to Lalit Modi, so they needed someone to hear them out and understand their concerns. So, I went to hear them out and present my own vision,” he says.
Ruchir is clearly interested in cricket, but some say he is just serving as a front for his father’s re-entry into Rajasthan and Indian cricket.
“It is obvious that Lalit Modi wants to get back to cricket through a 22-year old with no prior experience (in this); he will be the guiding force behind his son’s strategy and process,” said a member of RCA on condition of anonymity.
Ruchir, naturally, denies being a front. “I feel like I owe something to cricket in Rajasthan, it has suffered for the last four years. I believe cricket needs to be brought back to the state. My family owes that,” he says, adding that he speaks to his father at least 10 times a day over the phone. Not too many people buy that.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that a 22-year-old without any prior experience is even being considered for a post like this. This is clearly the worst form of nepotism and should not be encouraged. Lalit Modi may be an excellent administrator but that doesn’t mean he can get away with using a proxy,” says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at sports marketing agency Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions.
Still, to give Ruchir his due, he isn’t a novice at business. He has been involved with the K.K. Modi Group for years, and has plans for it.
“We need to take the Modi Group to the next level. Everyone in Modi Group has built a brand, they have made a success story of something. I would like to create not just one brand but multiple brands, grow the existing portfolio, and make it one of the largest business houses in India through diversification, digitization, effective management and transparency in organization,” says Ruchir.
He plans to start by monetizing the group’s existing real estate assets. “But we will not end there. We will look at mixed developments across multiple sectors in Mumbai and Thane for now. Most of our real estate assets (land) are held by family businesses. We will compete with the likes of Lodha group and Raheja group,” he adds.
Through Modi Ventures, the investment arm of the group that he founded in 2015 while studying in Regents University, London, Ruchir also plans to enter micro-finance this year. He declined to provide more details on this business.
He has also taken on the responsibility of expanding the group’s international businesses and taking its tobacco and tea products to international markets, including Africa. He will also work with his uncle Samir Modi on expanding the group’s chain of Twenty Four Seven Convenience Stores to at least 200 outlets within a year, from 50 currently.
Ruchir wants GPI to be seen as more than just a tobacco company; it will be known for real estate, tobacco, consumer packaged goods, and retail, he adds.
He works closely with grandfather and uncle but says his father is his “idol”.
“All of my life, I have been very close to my father and learnt more from him than from school,” says Ruchir.
“He is his father’s shadow,” adds an old-timer at the group on condition of anonymity.
Vidhi Choudhary contributed to the story