As India seeks to free itself from the shackles of red tape and stakes claim in the ease-of-business sweepstakes, the unleashing of entrepreneurial energies is in evidence. The 2016 Forbes India Rich List, the definitive listing of the country’s 100 wealthiest, sees a record cut-off this year at $1.25 billion, up from the previous year’s $1.1 billion. The aggregate wealth of India’s 100 richest people has gone up to $381 billion, up 10 percent in line with the movement of the markets over the same period. The higher cut-off means fewer newcomers—only six—this year. The top five slots are occupied by Mukesh Ambani (who leads the list for the ninth consecutive time), Dilip Shanghvi, the Hinduja brothers, Azim Premji and Pallonji Mistry.
Slice and dice the list a little and some interesting facets emerge. While the pharmaceuticals sector and diversified businesses throw up the most number of billionaires, the government’s focus on infrastructure and housing has led to huge gains for the cement and paints sector. Benu Gopal Bangur of Shree Cement, for instance, powers into the top 15 for the first time, while Ashwin Dani of Asian Paints adds over $1 billion to his wealth. Despite the challenges in the real estate sector, Kushal Pal Singh of DLF is the top wealth gainer in percentage terms, buoyed by news of a stake sale plan in his rental arm, and Vikas Oberoi of Oberoi Realty also makes a comeback to the list. The distribution of wealth within the top 100 continues to improve, with the top 20 contributing 52 percent of the aggregate wealth. This is particularly significant, given that the share of the top 20 stood at a much higher 70 percent in 2009.
If the entry of Sachin and Binny Bansal was the big news from 2015, this year sees the two Flipkart founders drop out of the top 100, reflecting the reality check being witnessed by the Indian ecommerce sector. But it’s not as if the emerging sectors aren’t represented: Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia of Directi make their debut, propelled by the spectacular $900 million sale of their ad-tech firm Media.net. As new ideas and ventures emerge, fresh faces such as these are likely to continue to find a place in the list.
Aside from the number-crunching and the stories behind the billions, this collector’s issue brings you rare pictures of the tycoons from their personal albums. We also highlight the ten most influential billionaires on Twitter and some of their most popular tweets, which give a glimpse into how they view important events and issues. Chief Photo Editor Vikas Khot and Design Director Anjan Das then join hands with consulting fashion director Yatan Ahluwalia to present some of the latest trends in fashion and grooming. After all, success, wealth and style must go hand in hand.
Editor, Forbes India
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(This story appears in the 10 November, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)