Family owned and run businesses in India are the rule rather than the exception in India. Bar the Tatas and to some extent the Birlas, almost all the other groups have splintered into many smaller groups due to inheritance problems when the founders handed over control to their scions. Although this blog post is four years old, the contents are still valid.

In almost all such splintered groups, growth has been phenomenal as the smaller entities have been able to flourish in the new liberal economic conditions in India compared to the earlier socialistic pattern of society that prevailed till the eighties of the last millennium.

It has been my personal observation at the lower end of India’s social life that the less wealthy, but reasonably well to do families, faced with similar inheritance problems, particularly from the agricultural backgrounds, have caused a lot of bad blood among the inheritors. In many cases, sons and daughters have not only fought among themselves, they have fought with their parents as well, in courts of law and sadly, in some cases even physically, to gain advantage over the others.

I know of a particularly poignant case, where a flourishing small business in the retail sector is faced with a problem. The founder has two sons one of who is a paraplegic due to an automobile accident and is unmarried. The other is younger but married and with a couple of children. The only daughter in law of the family, is scheming and manipulating matters to ensure that the paraplegic son is denied any share in the wealth or business, and the father is not bothered to do the proper thing by splitting the wealth during his own time, trusting fate to take care of the situation after his demise. He is superstitious that if he does anything during his life time, he will die a premature death! The paraplegic son is not dumb and is able to see what is going on but is unable to assert himself and get protected while the old man is still alive.

In another case, a very close friend is going through wealth tax problems because of one sibling’s children not being cooperative in disposing off a commonly owned property to divide among all the siblings. This situation has been going on for the past fifteen years! On a day to day basis the interest amount on the wealth tax owed is mounting but the stand off continues and my friend has decided to abandon his lien to the property to save himself from a disaster. Among the siblings, there is division between the pros and the cons and generally bad relationships between six siblings.

Among the very many things that I am very grateful for in my life is the fact that my three siblings and I have no bad blood between us, thanks to the fact that we have nothing to inherit from our father. What a blessing!