India's billionaires: A swelling tribe

The bull run in the capital markets has increased India's headcount in the club of dollar billionaires to 101 from 84 last year

Published: Apr 6, 2017 12:34:12 PM IST
Updated: Apr 6, 2017 05:11:18 PM IST

mg_95215_rtr3udn2bg_280x210.jpgMukesh Ambani, the 59-year-old chairman of the oil-to-yarn and retail conglomerate Reliance Industries, is the highest-ranked Indian in the list
Image: Reuters

For India’s wealthiest, the last year has been a remarkable one as their fortunes traced the rebound in the domestic capital markets.

Exemplifying this point is the 2017 Forbes World’s Billionaires List. In a first, the number of Indians in the list has crossed the three-digit mark, up from 84 last year. The country comes fourth when it comes to people with ten-digit fortunes—after the US (565), China (319) and Germany (114).

The list is a snapshot of wealth taken on February 17, 2017, based on stock prices and exchange rates on that day. In the year leading up to February 17, the Nifty 50 index spiked more than 22 percent, enhancing the fortunes of many.

With a net worth of $23.2 billion, Mukesh Ambani, the 59-year-old chairman of the oil-to-yarn and retail conglomerate Reliance Industries, is the highest-ranked Indian in the list, at No 33. (Reliance Industries Ltd owns Network 18, the publisher of Forbes India.)

Ambani is followed by Lakshmi Mittal, worth $16.4 billion, at rank 56; Azim Premji is ranked 72 ($14.9 billion); Dilip Shanghvi is at No 84 ($13.7 billion) and Shiv Nadar at No 102 ($12.3 billion).

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Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, 38, with a fortune of $1.3 billion, is the youngest among Indian billionaires, whereas the 91-year-old pharma veteran Samprada Singh (worth $1.1 billion) is the senior-most.

Bill Gates continued his perch on the top of Forbes’s World’s Billionaires List for the fourth consecutive year. The Microsoft co-founder is worth $86 billion, up from $75 billion last year. Gates has been the world’s richest person for 18 out of the past 23 years.

The world’s 2,043 billionaires (1,810 in 2016) are collectively worth $7.67 trillion, up from $6.48 trillion last year. The combined net worth of the 101 Indian billionaires on the list is $325.5 billion, or an average of $3.22 billion. There are four women and 13 newcomers among them.

Apart from Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the notable new entrants include Radhakishan Damani, the founder and promoter of retailer D-Mart at No 896 ($2.3 billion); Patanjali Ayurved co-founder Acharya Balkrishna at No 814 ($2.5 billion); industrialists Nusli Wadia at rank 544 ($3.5 billion) and Pawan Munjal at No 630 ($3.1 billion); and banker Rana Kapoor at No 1,795, with a net worth of $1.1 billion.

The four Indian women among the world’s top billionaires are Savitri Jindal ($5.2 billion); Smita Crishna-Godrej ($2.5 billion); India’s richest self-made woman billionaire Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw ($2.1 billion) and Leena Tiwari ($2 billion).

Despite a challenging year for Indian pharmaceutical and IT companies, the sectors have a strong presence on the list. Pharma and health care (18), consumer goods (14), real estate (8), and software services (7) comprised the top sectors with Indian billionaires.

Of the billionaires who had also made it to the 2016 list, Azad Moopen, who runs Dubai-based hospital chain Aster DM Healthcare, was the biggest wealth loser in percentage terms. His wealth decreased to $1 billion in 2017, from $1.5 billion a year earlier, a drop of more than 33 percent. In contrast, metals magnate Anil Agarwal saw his wealth soar by 166 percent to $3.2 billion, on a revival in the metals sector.

If the BJP-led central government goes ahead with bold economic reforms in the coming year, the tribe of Indian billionaires can only increase.

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