Anyone heard of Manoj Bhargava?? Not me.. until I read the Forbes article today titled “The Mystery Monk Making Billions With 5-Hour Energy”. Yes the man behind that 5-Hour Energy drink is right in our backyards – Manoj Bhargava from Farmington Hills. According to Forbes, Manoj Bhargava’s company, Living Essentials, is the biggest player by far in the ­energy-shot market.

Manoj Bhargava was born in India in the prosperous northern city of Lucknow. He left with his parents for America in 1967, so his academic publisher father could get a Ph.D. at Wharton.

About Manoj Bhargava from Forbes:

He won a full scholarship to the Ivy League feeder Hill School before heading to college at Princeton in 1972. Bhargava lasted a year. The pretentious eating-club culture wasn’t really for him, and he didn’t find his math classes particularly challenging. “‘Annoyed’ would be a mild word for my parents’ reaction,” he says. He returned to Fort Wayne, Ind., where his parents had settled and his father owned a plastics company. “There were no jobs; it was a disaster,” he says. “It was right before the oil embargo, the stagflation era.” He started reading books about a Hindu saint who’d spent his life on a spiritual quest. That, he thought, was something worthwhile. In 1974 he moved to India

Bhargava says he spent his 20s traveling between monasteries owned and tended by an ashram called Hanslok. He and his fellow disciples weren’t monks, exactly. “It’s the closest Western word,” he says. “We didn’t have bowler haircuts or robes or bells.” It was more like a commune, he says, but without the drugs. He did his share of chores, helped run a printing press and worked construction for the ashram. Bhargava claims he spent those 12 years trying to master one technique: the stilling of the mind, often through meditation. He still considers himself a member of the Hanslok order and spends an hour a day in his Farmington Hills basement in contemplative silence.

Bhargava would return to the U.S. periodically during his ashram years, working odd jobs before returning to India. For a few months he drove a yellow cab in New York. When he moved back from India for good, it was to help with the family plastics business at his parents’ urging. He spent the next decade dabbling in RV armrests and beachchair parts. He had no interest in plastics whatsoever but devoted himself to buying small, struggling regional outfits and turning them around. By 2001 Bhargava had expanded his Indiana PVC manufacturer from zero sales to $25 million (he eventually sold it to a private equity firm for $20 million in 2006). He decided to retire and moved to Michigan to be near his wife’s family. “Nobody moves on purpose to Detroit,” he says. His retirement lasted two months. He knew from his plastics success that the chemicals industry was ripe for exploiting. “Chemicals are really simple,” he says. “You mix a couple things together and sell it for more than the materials cost.”

Read more about Manoj Bhargava’s fascinating story in FORBES.