Ajay Piramal
Ajay Piramal, 61, is the chairman of the Piramal Group Reuters

Ajay Piramal is chairman of the Piramal Group, a global business conglomerate with interests in healthcare, textiles, financial services and life sciences. With an estimated net worth of $5.4bn (£4.1bn), he is one of India's richest men.

Piramal began his career in his family's textile business at the age of 22 in 1977. His father died shortly after, while his eldest brother Dilip Piramal separated from the family business, leaving Ajay to manage a textile company that was crippled by trade union strikes.

Labour troubles and declining profitability at the textile mills convinced Piramal that he needed to diversify the family business. He acquired a glass packing business before venturing into unfamiliar territory by acquiring drug maker Nicholas Laboratories in 1988.

The acquisition came at a time when many multinational pharmaceutical firms were exiting India, frustrated at price controls and limited patent protection. But where others saw obstacles, Piramal saw opportunity.

"The market was growing," he said in 2015. "The penetration of modern medicine was still limited. There were lots of new doctors coming in, and treatments were required.

"Most experts, most consultants, would have said, 'That's not the place to be.' One just has to understand the basics. I think sometimes we can't see the woods for the trees."

Piramal went on to expand his pharma business through a series of acquisitions. By the time it was sold in 2010 – to US-based Abbott Industries for $3.7bn – it was among the top five pharmaceutical companies in India.

The proceeds from the sale were invested to expand the group's interests in financial services, life sciences and information management, with Piramal proving to be a shrewd deal maker.

The Piramal Group also acquired an 11% stake in Vodafone India at a time when the Indian telecoms sector was rife with intense competition and low tariffs. It was sold three years later at a 52% premium.

Given his track record of identifying and purchasing under-valued stocks and businesses, Piramal has often drawn comparisons with legendary US investor Warren Buffett. However, Piramal himself has downplayed the similarities between the two.

"Comparison with Warren Buffet is not really fair because he has done it over a very long period and also he has done it with a lot more capital," he said in 2016. "But what we try, what you should look at is really how we are capital allocators and how we can make the best return for the capital over a longer period of time.

"We take a dispassionate view of our investments. Does it mean that we are looking out to monetise the investment? That is not correct. But if we get an offer that we cannot refuse, as I say, then it is not that we will still hold on to the investment."

Piramal's immediate family manages different sections of the Piramal Group. His wife Swati is the vice chairperson of Piramal Enterprises, while his son Anand heads Piramal Realty. Daughter Nandini manages the human resources division of the entire group.

Piramal is known to draw inspiration from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.

"The best advice I ever got is from the study of the Bhagavad Gita," he said.

"From the Gita I have learnt that we have to be completely focused on doing actions to the best of one's ability and not worry about the results, because results are only action in another form. Reading and learning the Gita has helped me realise the importance of humility and equanimity in both good times and bad."

Piramal is a non-executive director on the board of Tata Sons, the holding company behind the Tata conglomerate.