Friday, April 22, 2005


27 year old Zorawar Kalra is planning to sell paranthas and rolls from carts at shopping malls. According to Business Today, he got this brainwave after seeing cups of steamed corn selling like hotcakes at the same venue.

So Kalra has set up 'The Royal Parantha Company' and has sunk in Rs 12 lakh to set up a state-of-the-art central kitchen in Mehrauli, from where he will ship out the paranthas to franchisees in frozen form.

Zorawar's dad is the well known food consultant Jiggs Kalra and he's a graduate of Boston's Bentley Business University. Being an MBA, Kalra has ostensibly studied the market situation and thinks he has a winning idea. Definitely, I think there is a demand. Success will depend on how well can he execute the supply.

But Kalra is just one example of a new breed of young people. What I call the 'coat-tailers'.

Coat-tailers are the kids of parents who have it all. Statistically they are a small % but very visible in the media. eg Kids of actors, politicians, industrialists and the miscellaneous well-known.

They have had no pressures to perform well academically, or had to put much thought to their careers. Their career is to prepare themselves to inherit the family legacy. There is no shame in this. They are generally educated abroad but aspire to return home, not settle there permanently.

Coat tailers can go thru life doing nothing - there's already a house, car and spending money and Indian parents will support their kids for life. But it's not fashionable to sponge off your parents forever, coat tailers do aspire to make some sort of personal contribution. It's just that they can afford to think longer about what they want, and even fail at a few things.

Characteristics of coat-tailers
Kids of: Celebrities, successful Westernised professionals, Businessmen of standing

Attitude: We've always had the best, because we can afford it.

Parental expectation: Do what you want, what makes you happy. If u need a leg up, I'm around.

Aspiration in Education: Foreign Univ from undergrad level, if not definitely a Foreign MBA.
The ranking of the university is not key - Bentley for example is um, nowehere in the Businessweek top 50 but is still $ 80,000 well spent as far the coat-tailer is concerned. Who needs a placement?

What kids do: Drifting around for some time after education is OK. Eventually they know they will join the family business or profession.

However they do aspire to make a difference in the longer run, do things differently. When that does not happen they feel lack of purpose and meaning in life.

Emerging Trend
Coat tailers whose families are into the more traditional, boring businesses are striking out into more exciting areas eg nightspots, clothing stores, media, something-to-do-with-entertainment etc. These ventures are often aimed at "People Like Us", and modelled on similar concepts seen on foreign trips.

Usually the family will help fund their ideas. The new business may not contribute that much to family bottomline but keeps the young person busy and out of trouble, also may give boost to image.

Bottomline: At the very least, coat-tailers - who bring us fancy new restaurants and convert their boring mill lands into cool malls - make the world a better place for us lesser mortals.

If some of their ventures end up in the red - so be it. Call it adventures in angel investing - where the angel is actually our father, not in heaven, but yon planet earth.


  1. Well put; I have known some coat tailers myself; for what its worth, they are fun company.

  2. Excellent analysis.

    Usually while getting that degree abroad the 'suitable' spouse is garnered too.

  3. I was just waiting to hear the phrase the "Dil Chahta Hai" kinda crowd, I did not find it, so here it is.

    One more characteristics of this scions is that they want to automate/computerise/professionalise their otherwise drab vanaspati mfg. type family business. Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesnt.

  4. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Well, I dont think I mind coat tailers.. we all are coat tailers in one way or the other,no? I mean bravely take up engineering when our parents.. government employees.. gladly pay for your 'payment seats' and then dont even bother to pay them back..

  5. I don't think you give enough credit to 'coat-tailers' ....if that's all they did, IBM would have never become the behemoth it is now.
    (History: Thomas Watson Sr. started IBM and was a pretty darn good company ....and his son, TW Jr. multiplied the corp. 10 fold.)

    Think about it. I think we're a little begrudging to those who were born with the proverbial silver-spoon, but I'd rather judge them all on individual merit.

  6. Dear Maven

    I hope you are reffreing to Azim Premzi of Wipro who actually utomated/computerised/professionalised their otherwise drab vanaspati mfg unit inherited by his father.

  7. coat-tailers rather have a tough task in hand. Outsmarting the overwhelming presence of a parent can sometimes weigh a little too heavy. In all they have an advantage( the bucks from guardian-angel and the surname too!) and also a disadvantage that only a few can subdue.

  8. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Firstly I would like to apologize on behalf of all the coat tailers out there. We really have no right to lean on our family name and use the benefits our well to do parents have so thoughtfully provided for us. The fact that we were born into successful families with out our consent is deeply distressing. As we are coat tailers our success is without doubt due to our mommies and daddies and their bank balances, connections and what have you. Our sliver spoons make us less human and deserving of your admiration and respect.

    While a fair degree of our Indian brothers and sisters live below the poverty line we are pursuing foreign educations, suitable brides and generally living the good life. We find that this is most undesirable. Our quest for identity and our efforts for emerging out of the shadows of our illustrious parents are vain and conceited. How silly it is that we want to be a little different and find our niche. We realize that is because of the fact that is ok to be a middle class nobody but to fail as a rich kid is just the pits. We just don’t have that saintly halo that is acquired from the strife and suffering that comes with having to claw our way to the top like most other people.

    Our sense of self worth is solely derived from our costly misadventures that provide you with night clubs, malls and other varied amusements. We realize that our success is some how less heroic or tainted due to the lack our middle class roots.

    Lady seriously WTF…… are you thinking?? . Do I hear an under current of middle class envy? Frankly your analysis is very patronizing and derogatory. It’s like because we are rich, our accomplishments should be some how less that some one else’s.

    “However they do aspire to make a difference in the longer run, do things differently. When that does not happen they feel lack of purpose and meaning in life.” Oh really? I thought that this was common to most people. All of us have a need to do something different make a mark for ourselves. Take your case you chucked perfectly good IIM degree to start JAM. I admire that, it takes guts. So if JAM were to fail (god forbid.. ) I take it you would not feel a lack of purpose or indulge in some introspection. I guess it happens only to rich kids trying to do something different. I never really thought of it that way .Gee being rich sucks.

    And here is another gem “Bottomline: At the very least, coat-tailers - who bring us fancy new restaurants and convert their boring mill lands into cool malls - make the world a better place for us lesser mortals.” No we don’t go around building malls to bring cheer to the dreary lives of the great unwashed masses. Making money and unlocking value of our real estate was the motivating factor. However we appreciate the altruistic motive implied.

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