Meet 34-year-old Nikhil Kamath, India's youngest self-made billionaire

At 34, Nikhil Kamath may be India’s youngest billionaire but he seems far from flamboyant. 
In a chat, he talks about money, his relationship with his elder brother and more.

Published: 05th November 2020 05:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th November 2020 11:10 AM   |  A+A-

Nikhil Kamath

Nikhil Kamath | Pic: Meghana Sastry

Express News Service

BENGALURU: It’s slightly surprising to hear Nikhil Kamath say he can’t afford something. The 34-year-old Bengalurean has, after all, recently emerged as India’s youngest billionaire.

According to IIFL Wealth Hurun India’s 40 & Under Self-Made Rich List 2020, Nikhil and his elder brother, Nithin Kamath, top the list with a combined net worth of Rs 24,000 crore. And yet, the younger Kamath brother is modest as ever as he talks to The New Indian Express about his hobby.

"I've always like art – particularly from the 15th century or the Renaissance period. I can't afford to buy that art but its history appeals to me," says Nikhil, who is the co-founder and CIO of financial services firm Zerodha and True Beacon, an asset management company. 

Even as netizens are binge-watching Netflix’s Bad Boy Billionaires, Nikhil seems far from flamboyant like the other famous Bengaluru business tycoon – Vijay Mallya. Dressed in an astronaut-printed shirt, he admits that wealth inequality in the society is indeed a problem.

"Parts of the world, like America or the UK, have an inheritance tax of about 40 per cent. We need something like that in India. It would be a hard law to pass but it is a good way to address the inequality," says Nikhil, who also worked with Bengaluru city police to distribute 15,000 meals a day during the lockdown.  

While things may seem bullish on the professional front, life isn’t always so. Even today, Nikhil faces the same uncertainty he did at the age of 15, when he discontinued formal education to pursue chess professionally.

"I was nervous then, I’m nervous now and I’ll continue to be nervous. What happens tomorrow is as unpredictable as anything," says the JP Nagar resident.

Though his decision was met with concern, he does hope that today his parents are less sceptical. "I don’t think they pay attention to rich lists," adds Nikhil, who eventually left chess, began trading at 17 and went on to establish Zerodha with Nithin, at the age of 23. 

His family ties remain strong as ever – except when it comes to a game of pool, tennis or basketball. "My brother and I have a great relationship, we're more like friends. He is, however, as competitive as a 10-year-old boy, but in a nice way," says Nikhil of the sports ritual his brother, 40, and he share. But when it comes to doling out advice, he takes a step back.

"When markets get volatile, they go back to a non-volatile state very quickly. People are not like that. I'm not the best at inter-personal relationships. So I tend to listen more than advise," he says. 

Aptly enough, the chat ends with him sharing sage money advice for these turbulent times: "Be prudent and save as much as you can. Nobody knows what could happen tomorrow."


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