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Counting the Billions

Buoyant markets have led to a record number of billionaires in 2017. And India is following the trend

Sourav Majumdar
Published: Apr 14, 2017 08:32:20 AM IST
Updated: Apr 25, 2017 12:47:22 PM IST

Counting the Billions

It’s been a most eventful year for the world’s richest people. Markets rocketed, commodity prices rose and billionaire Donald Trump became America’s 45th president.

Alongside, the fortunes of those with big money and sprawling business empires also moved in tandem. Nowhere is this in greater evidence than in the Forbes listing of the World’s Billionaires, the definitive ranking of the wealthiest people on the planet. (In fact, the 30th anniversary of this guide to the world’s richest also highlights the status of those billionaires—spread across the world—with business connections to Trump, the real estate tycoon.)

More significantly, it points to the various shifts and changes in global wealth. For example, the overall number of billionaires has crossed 2,000 for the first time since Forbes began compiling this list. The number rose 13 percent over 2016 to 2,043 this year. The year-on-year change in the number of billionaires (233) is also the highest ever. The aggregate wealth in 2017 grew 18 percent to a record $7.67 trillion.

Counting the Billions
A closer look at the cast of characters in this prestigious list throws up even more interesting facts. Bill Gates is the richest person on the planet for the fourth consecutive year, and has been the richest person in 18 of the past 23 years. His fortune, at $86 billion, is up signifi cantly from last year’s $75 billion. Investments legend Warren Buffett ($75.6 billion) is back at second spot with a staggering $14.8 billion jump in wealth (Buffett is also the second highest wealth gainer, and the highest since Trump became US President). But the smartest gainer at the top end of the list is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who stormed into the top three for the first time with the biggest wealth gain, at $27.6 billion, leading to a total fortune of $72.8 billion. Bezos was at number five last year. Close on the heels of Bezos is internet billionaire Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook ($56 billion), who added a hefty $11.4 billion to his wealth, and broke into the top five for the first time, behind Zara’s Amancio Ortega ($71.3 billion), who ended up at fourth spot, down from number two last year, despite gaining $4.3 billion—a sign of the massive wealth gain registered by some of the others in the top five.

Back home in India, the number of billionaires has shown significant growth, crossing the three-figure mark at 101, up from the previous year’s 84, with a combined net worth of $325.5 billion. Reliance Industries’s Mukesh Ambani, the highest ranked Indian billionaire at number 33 with $23.2 billion, is followed by Lakshmi Mittal ($16.4 billion, rank 56), Azim Premji ($14.9 billion, 72), Dilip Shanghvi ($13.7 billion, 84) and Shiv Nadar ($12.3 billion, 102) making up the five richest Indians on the list. Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma at age 38 is the youngest Indian billionaire and makes his debut on the list, while DMart founder Radhakishan Damani and Patanjali Ayurved co-founder Acharya Balkrishna are also among the 13 newcomers from India. Further evidence of the unleashing of entrepreneurial energy in India: The country is at number four in the list of nations spawning the highest number of super rich, behind the US (565), China (319) and Germany (114).

Sourav Majumdar
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@TheSouravM

(This story appears in the 28 April, 2017 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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