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Meet Akshata Murty: the power behind Rishi Sunak, the new British prime minister

The fiercely private, and low-profile, Akshata Murty, is more than just the wife of the Rishi Sunak, the British prime minister. She is the daughter of N. R. Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of Indian tech major Infosys. At last count Infosys was worth $100 billion.

Akshata Murty with her husband, British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and their daughters.

With Rishi Sunak being the first British Asian (of Indian origin) to be the United Kingdom’s (UK) Prime Minister, Akshata Murty has also become the First Indian to be the First Lady of the United Kingdom.

Rishi Sunak’s Indian ancestry includes not only the fact that his grandparents migrated to east Africa from undivided India (before 1947) but also that he has an Indian wife. Akshata Murty is the daughter of Indian business icon N. R. Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of the Indian tech giant, the $100 billion-worth Infosys, and Sudha Murty [she spells the surname without the 'h'], a popular Indian author and philanthropist. The Murthys are often described as the 'first family' of tech in Bengaluru, India's tech capital.

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty met at Stanford University in the United States, where they both studied for an MBA. The couple married in 2009 and have two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.

The whole spotlight is on Akshata Murty, who is said to be even richer than Queen Elizabeth. The media reports indicate that Akshata has a net worth of around $1.3 billion. The combined net worth of Rishi and Akshata is over £730 million (nearly USD 847 million).

The British based Indian businesswoman and fashion designer, Akshata Murty, was born in April 1980, Karnataka, India. She finished high school from Bangalore's Baldwin Girls' High School and went to Claremont McKenna College in California to study economics and French. She also holds a master's degree in business administration from Stanford University and a certificate in clothing manufacturing from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

N. R. Narayana Murthy, who has been described as the 'father of the Indian IT sector' by Time magazine, is a a billionaire but famous for his modest lifestyle. Akshata Murty has a 0.93 per cent stake in her father’s Indian software company,worth approximately $715 million.

Akshata worked as a marketing director for a Dutch cleantech startup named Tendris from 2007 to 2009, following which she created her own fashion firm, 'Akshata Designs.' Her debut collection was launched in 2011, however the firm was closed after a year. Akshata specializes in working with artists in remote communities in India. She identified artisans in remote villages and collaborated with them to develop her own designs. She has featured in Vogue India, stating “I’m about the story behind a particular garment, it’s authenticity, craftsmanship and protecting a rich heritage. I care about doing something in India, for India because it’s part of our family’s DNA.”

She is a director of Digme Fitness, a UK fitness center and the UK subsidiary of Soroco, an IT company co-founded by her brother, Rohan Murty.

Akshata is on the board of directors at a venture capital firm - Catamaran Ventures, which is founded by Akshata’s father, N. R. Narayana Murthy. Akshata and her husband, Rishi, co-founded the London office of Catamaran Ventures. In 2015, before being elected as the Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Richmond, Rishi Sunak handed over his shares to Akshata. She also owns shares in the Indian Wendy's burger company and in chef Jamie Oliver's restaurant company.

Akshata Murty has been in a controversy related to her tax. She was targeted by the Opposition politicians due to her non-domicile tax status, which exempts her from paying UK's taxes on income earned from abroad. Akshata Murty’s non-domicile status apparently allows her to save money on her tax payments. She was accused of misusing her non-domicile status to save millions of dollars in taxes.

She has denied the tax arrangements allegations against her and in a tweet mentioned, “In recent days, people have asked questions about my tax arrangements: to be clear, I have paid tax in this country on my UK income and international tax on my international income. This arrangement is entirely legal and how many non-domiciled people are taxed in the UK.”

Akshata Murty also stated that she will not be claiming the remittance basis for tax, which means she will pay UK tax on all of her worldwide income, including dividends and capital gains, wherever that income originates in the world.

She has said, “ long-standing shareholding in Infosys is not just a financial investment but also testament to my father's work, of which I am incredibly proud. My decision to pay UK tax on all my worldwide income will not change the fact that India remains the country of my birth, citizenship, parents’ home and place of domicile. But I love the UK too.”

[All $ = USD]


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