Ashwin C Dungrani wears his wealth lightly, quite literally. His company, Atmanand Gems, a big name in Surat’s diamond circles, has been in the business for 25 years and employs over 1,200 people. Surat is home to a ₹1-lakh-crore diamond industry and the going has not been easy over the past few years. Dungrani says that barely 20% of his wealth is parked in his business. “The other 80% is in real estate,” he adds. The diamond industry is saddled with problems related to dropping prices and margins. “This has made it necessary for us to look outside our business and so, I have invested money in land. It is a safe and secure investment. More importantly, it gives you flexibility,” he says.
By that he means having the freedom to do things like building a marriage hall, which he has, in fact, done. “The hall is spread over an area of 2 lakh sq ft and the rental revenue that comes our way through it each year is ₹25 lakh,” says Dungrani. So far, all the land that he has acquired has been in Surat, which he calls home. Then, there is the added advantage of having an intimate knowledge of this asset class, given that Dungrani’s family has a farming background. “We have been buying land for almost 30 years.” At this point, only these two asset classes are preferred, though Dungrani did briefly dabble in equities. In 2005, he lost money in stocks. “I might look into equity again if I feel confident about it,” he says. That said, there is a fundamental reluctance on his part to hand over money to someone else. “It is not a philosophy that makes me too comfortable.”