Fueling His Passions
having discovered a pipeline to success in petrochemicals, Vijay Goradia has now emerged as one of india’s leading philanthropists. AS A YOUNG MAN Vijay Goradia wanted to get as far from his parents’ middle-class life in Mumbai as possible. First he hitchhiked across Afghanistan, Iran and Europe, living as a pauper before leaving for a third continent, arriving in America in 1978. In a lucky stroke a friend from India ofered him a few thousand dollars to inspect a shipment of raw plastic materials. He was soon doing similar work for an expanding Rolodex of customers. “Credit risk, country risk, currency risk, regulatory issues, customs requirements,” he says. “[Companies] wanted someone else to deal with those issues.”
Gone are the days when Goradia had to borrow a buddy’s baggy suit for meetings. His Houston-based Vinmar International now pulls in about $5 billion in sales distributing petrochemicals in more than 100 countries. Goradia, Vinmar’s chairman, and his family own the whole thing, giving him a fortune of $1.5 billion. “It’s all about taking calculated risks without doing stupid things,” says Goradia, 64, who in his spare time enjoys skydiving and hang gliding.
In 1998 he began seriously mulling ways to help the country he left behind. He has since become one of the chief fundraisers for Pratham, an education nonproft in India. Pratham says that, in a country where some charitable organizations are corrupt, it’s one of the good ones (it claims that an impressive 95 cents of each dollar goes to its charitable programs). “Once a year I visit the schools,” Goradia says. “I wish I could do more, but I still have a day job.”