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The Turnaround Year

The 2009 Forbes' India Rich List shows the nation's billionaires have done much better than their counterparts in the rest of the world

Published: Nov 19, 2009 11:45:32 PM IST
Updated: Feb 28, 2014 05:00:16 PM IST

First, a couple of telling numbers: Last year, there were 27 Indian billionaires. This year, there are 52 – one short of what India had at the peak of the stock market boom in 2007. Of these, the 40 richest on the list are worth $228 billion. Last year, they were worth $139 billion.

Therefore, it is tempting to assume all is well. Well, let’s put it this way. All is almost well. But first the bad news! In 2007, the 40 richest Indians had a combined net worth of $351 billion. Last year, they lost over 60 percent of that wealth. This year, they’ve clawed back and recouped $99 billion. But they’re still down 35 percent from the peak.

Image: Vidyanand Kamat
Then, of course, there is the exchange rate itself. When the data was computed last year, the exchange rate was Rs. 50.72 to the dollar. This year, the rupee has appreciated and was at Rs. 46.20 on October 16, the cut off date we took to compute their wealth. Which means, last year, you needed at least Rs. 5,072 crore to be a billionaire. This year, you need only Rs. 4,620 crore, Rs. 452 crore less than the previous year.

Now, the good news! Given how things have panned out over the last couple of months, Indians have done much better than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Take America for instance. For only the fifth time since 1982, the collective net worth of its 400 richest people declined, falling $300 billion in 12 months from $1.57 trillion to $1.27 trillion. It is much the same thing in Japan. Twenty eight of the 40 richest people lost money, including everybody in the top 10. And when Forbes compiled the data for Korea in April this year, seven billionaires dropped off leaving only five on the list. As for Australia, it now has only nine billionaires as compared to 18 last year.
But China, like India, is a different matter altogether. The total net worth of China’s 400 richest people jumped 81 percent, or $141 billion. Of that, 79 are billionaires and by all accounts, their numbers will keep growing.

That said, there are a few interesting differences between the rich in India and China. The 100 richest Indians are worth $276 billion; their Chinese counterparts have a net worth of $170 billion.

Equally interesting, the three richest Indians are worth $79.5 billion. It takes 24 Chinese billionaires though to be worth $80 billion. These differences are perhaps a function of the fact that in China, the government is the largest entrepreneur while in India, private enterprise has a bigger role.

To compile these rankings, a half dozen reporters interviewed rich listers, employees, rivals, investors, fund managers, real estate agents and securities analysts. We also sifted through documents and databases to determine value and ownership of assets.

For people with publicly traded fortunes, net worths were calculated using October 16 stock prices and foreign exchange rates. Privately held fortunes were valued at book value or by coupling estimates of revenues, profits or book value to prevailing ratios for similarly publicly traded companies. Indian citizenship was required to make the list. Unlike the Forbes worldwide billionaire’s rankings, India’s 100 Richest ranking has been broadened to include some family fortunes.

Click here for the complete Forbes' India Rich List 2009.

India Has 52 Billionaires; Mukesh Ambani Richest

The 100 Richest Indians Ranking

Richest Indians ranked by Age

Richest Indians ranked by Home City


(This story appears in the 04 December, 2009 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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