Jignesh Vadaraja is an unknown name in media and national circles. But if you happen to visit the lanes of Halol, Gujarat, the industrial hub, Vadaraja is known to all and revered by all. In spite of this, a simple google search will throw up exactly zero search results for Jignesh, such is the shroud of secrecy over this persona. We could not even find a picture of Jignesh online.
So who is this Jignesh? Jignesh is currently in the unenviable position of being a supplier to at least 4 PSUs in Gujarat, some of which are direct competitors to one another. Normally, PSUs, sign agreements with their suppliers restricting them from supplying the same products to competitors. But Jignesh bhai not only supplies to multiple PSUs, but also some private companies.
How did Jignesh bhai scale such heights of business?
It all started in Vadnagar a few decades ago. He and the current PM Narendra Modi were batch-mates for 2 years in the local middle school. They were never in the same class, but they shared a unique bond: Both were the best openers for a game of gully cricket in their mohalla. Locals who witnessed that era spoke to us saying that Jignesh and Modi opened for the same team and in the process, notching solid partnerships. Stats pulled up from Cricinfo show how Modi picked Jignesh in his team 73% of the time.
In spite of their clearly close association, Jignesh today refutes any allegations that his meteoric rise in business is due to his proximity with Modi.
He says: “Modi was my batch-mate and cricketing partner. I have also had water at his house a few times after a match. But all these were just casual interactions and have no connection with my business”.
We move to 2003 in Gujarat, when Modi had just become the Chief Minister. While Modi had reached the pinnacle of state politics, Jignesh had a small family run shop in Vadnagar itself. Just as Modi’s rise in politics started, Jignesh’s life also changed for the better. Firstly, he moved from Vadnagar to a nondescript town called Halol. Within a few years, the sleepy town of Halol would emerge as a industrial hub due to Modi’s policies and Jignesh would directly benefit from this.
Once in Halol, Jignesh set shop with a meagre capital of Rs 2,000 (adjusted for inflation to Rs 50,000). He employed just one person, who happened to be his younger brother. Miraculously, his fortunes changed within a few years as all around him, private and public enterprises began setting up industries.
Jignesh, who had acquired his shop for a very cheap price, now suddenly owned an enterprise in a commercial hub. This coincided with his childhood friend Modi’s multiple business summits promoting Gujarat as a place for industry to come and set up shop.
Once factories and offices sprouted, Jignesh’s business started flourishing. From supplying to local town-folk, Jignesh began playing in the big league now, getting orders after orders from executives of multinational companies. Soon his “fame” spread, and Modi’s chum began getting orders straight from the corporate entities themselves. Within a few years, Jignesh’s products were found in PSUs as well as Private companies, often rivals.
The terms and conditions of these orders are most intriguing. Generally PSUs pay their suppliers after a 90 to 180 days credit period. Jignesh on the other hand gets paid upfront before he hands off his wares. We asked companies for any KYC details maintained by them, but shockingly, none of them had any documents about Jignesh, although none hesitated in calling him a “regular supplier”.
It is standard practice for PSUs to buy any material only after obtaining bids, expression of interests, etc. The most competitive bidder at the least price usually wins the order. But all PSUs we spoke to, admitted candidly that Jignesh was not subjected to such due processes. In fact, they even acknowledged that some of Jignesh’s competitors had the same product at cheaper rates. When asked about this discrepancy, a PSU head honcho remarked ” Jignesh’s products are just better”. He however had no scientific tests by independent authorities to confirm that Jignesh’s products were superior, hence preferred.
Another oddity in this “verbal contract” of supply is that the rate which Jignesh charges varies regularly. Some of his main raw materials, which are under significant government control, routinely increase in price. Jignesh promptly passes on the additional cost to his customers. Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan expressed his inability to control the prices of these raw materials stating that such variations in prices were “seasonal”.
Backed by such regular flow of orders from PSUs, Jignesh has managed to bag a substantial borrowing. Coincidentally, these loans from national banks, were taken by Jignesh post 2014 i.e. after Modi’s rise to the top of the food chain. The entire borrowing of Jignesh is fully unsecured, with no primary security and no collateral. How is this possible? All the loans are under a scheme by Modi’s central government. In fact, it is Modi’s pet scheme and its odd how it has directly benefited his close childhood friend’s business.
We asked Jignesh about how he managed to secure loans from Government banks, at a time when Modi is the PM, under a scheme which the PM has himself devised. Jignesh simply stated that the loan was given by the banks looking at his creditworthiness and hard-work.
Jignesh is a supplier to PSU’s and private companies. He has his corporate headquarters in Halol. He has raised many loans (unsecured) from banks. Yet, none of his financials are publicly available. An undercover reporter also noted that he may be involved in tax fraud, since his sales invoice is undated, and does not mention either his PAN or GSTIN.
As per Jignesh himself, most of his business is in cash, and yet he claims that during demonetisation he did not face much hassles since his cash balance at 8th November was a few thousand rupees, with no Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Modi’s pal had it easy street during demonetisation and he did not receive a single notice from Income Tax department either.
The extent of Jignesh’s influence in the power corridors of Halol can be gauged from the next fact. Normally, suppliers line up the offices of PSU head honchos, asking for supply orders. But the big guns of PSUs themselves make a beeline at Jignesh’s premises. Many a times these executives themselves collect the orders instead of Jignesh delivering them. It is apparently “good exercise” for the bosses, hence they personally visit Jignesh.
Jignesh’s industry too has received a lot of direct publicity from PM Modi himself. In a recent interview, PM Modi spoke at length about this industry and extolled to the nation, the virtues of being in this line of business. At the time of going to press, it was unknown whether Jignesh’s business received a major boost in sales thanks to his friend’s endorsement. The only other time Modi associated with a brand, was when Reliance used his photo to promote their 4G services.
Although Modi has backed his product, research suggests that the product comes from a super set which has been known to cause health issues in people. One of the crucial raw materials in his product is a proven carcinogen. Yet Jignesh claims he has never once been visited by any regulatory authority, not in Modi’s tenure as CM nor in his tenure as PM.
Thanks to his good “fortune”, Jignesh has diversified into other businesses.
Firstly, he has begun a segment where he now produces one of the raw materials required by his main business, thus creating a vertical integration in his business. He has also begun dealing in ancillary products and has expressed desires for more horizontal integration which will increase his margins and appeal among customers.
While Jignesh Vadaraja is famous enough, if you ask for Jignesh “Patel” no one will know him. This is because Jignesh Vadaraja is actually a pseudonym of Jignesh Patel. Why does Modi’s close friend have 2 names? Why does anyone need 2 names?
Jignesh claims that he acquired the alias of Vadaraja since he was the “King of Vadas” in Halol. As mentioned above, Jignesh’s vada-pav stand in Halol has been flourishing. All the same, the amazing similarity of Jignesh’s new name and the name of a US based journalist who has been sued by Jay Amit Shah cannot be ignored.
In times when the country’s GDP is in doldrums, sale of Vada pavs at Jignesh’s stall in Halol are booming. Backed by supplies to major PSUs (some have their own canteens), Jignesh has raised major loans under the Mudra scheme, which was created by Modi. Whenever onion and tomato prices rise, he raises his selling price. He requires no tenders & no bids. He gets paid in hard cash, upfront. He does not have a GST number. Business heads personally come to eat and collect vadas at his stall. But still, Jignesh claims all this good fortune has nothing to do with his friendship with Modi.
– Mohini Singh left a very successful career in psephology to become an investigative journalist with a leftist rag called theliar.in. She is famous for accurately predicting the outcome of UP Assembly election