Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers

Fortune has shone bright on some, and dimmed on others

Salil Panchal
Published: Oct 14, 2015 06:12:30 AM IST
Updated: Oct 14, 2015 08:25:57 AM IST

Rajendra Agarwal, Macleods Pharmaceuticals
+$740 mln (+67.27%)
Rank 58; Up 32 places

The highest gainer on the 2015 Forbes India Rich List is the low-profile doctor Rajendra Agarwal, who has risen the most, both in terms of rank (he was No. 90 last year) and the percentage rise in wealth (which totalled $1.1 billion in 2014). His fortune has been fuelled by strong business growth led by exports. He founded the privately held Macleods Pharmaceuticals in 1986 with a focus on anti-tuberculosis and anti-infective drugs. The drug company has since expanded into high growth areas of diabetes, orthopaedics, gynaecology and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Macleods has a presence across 80 countries, where it has joint ventures, licensing agreements, contract manufacturing and tenders to operate its business models. In 2015, it was recognised by industry consultancy firm IMS Health as among the fast growing pharmaceutical firms in India (through total sales audit).

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers
M A Yusuff Ali, LuLu Group
+ $1.4 bln (+60.87%)
Rank 24;  Up 16 places

The Gulf-based retailer is amongst the top in terms of an absolute gain in wealth in 2015. He grew up in Kerala, but migrated to the Middle East where he started a small food wholesaling business in Abu Dhabi in the 1970s. His LuLu Group, which is spearheaded by the retail division, with 119 hypermarkets and supermarkets across the Middle East, is estimated to have global revenues of $6.5 billion. Deloitte has ranked his group as one of the fastest growing retailers in the world. Other businesses in the LuLu Group include food processing, commodities trading, IT, tourism and education. He retains an India presence with malls in Kochi.

Image: Courtesy Yusuffali M.A.

PV Ramaprasad Reddy, Aurobindo Pharma
+$990 mln (+54.7%)
Rank 30;  Up 24 places

The pharmaceutical tycoon, PV Ramaprasad Reddy, who co-founded Aurobindo Pharma along with his wife, controls about 38 percent of the company. He has seen a substantial rise in his wealth as shares of the company have jumped over 60 percent in the past year at the BSE. Nearly 80 percent of the company’s sales come from exports, mainly to USA and Europe. Its fortunes in recent months have been buoyed by its acquisition of the European operations of Irish pharmaceutical firm Actavis. Its US arm bought out nutrition supplement maker Natrol.

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers

Rajesh Mehta, Rajesh Exports
+$580 mln (+51.79%)
Rank 65;  Up 23 places

The growth in Rajesh Mehta’s fortune can be traced to his company, Rajesh Exports, buying out Swiss firm Valcambi—the world’s largest gold refiner—for $400 million in July 2015. Rajesh Exports’ shares have zoomed 198 percent in the hope that the deal will boost its ability to source raw material (gold) and upgrade its gold refinery technology. At a time when gold jewellery demand in India is expected to remain sluggish, Mehta has plans to market designer gold jewellery to Europe and North America, where Valcambi had built up a strong network.

Sudhir And Samir Mehta, Torrent Group
+$800 mln (+32%)
Rank 25;  Up 7 places

A 63 percent rise in the shares of the group’s flagship company Torrent Pharmaceuticals has aided the fortunes of the two siblings. Sudhir and Samir Mehta run the $2.6 billion (in revenues) Torrent Group.  Pharmaceuticals continue to form the bulk of their wealth, with other businesses being power and cables. Torrent Pharmaceuticals reported a 75 percent jump in consolidated net profit at Rs 449 crore for the three months to June 2015, which sent its shares skyrocketing to a lifetime high of Rs 1,720 at the BSE on August 31. The improved earnings were largely due to the launch of the drug Aripiprazole for the US market. This year, Torrent completed the acquisition of Encore group firm Zyg Pharmaceuticals, which makes dermatological formulations like creams, ointments and gels. Torrent management have told analysts that in the next two to three years, the plan will be to file about 25 abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) from Zyg. On the group front, an Indian court has approved the scheme of amalgamation of group firms Torrent Cables and Torrent Energy with Torrent Power.

Anil Ambani

-$3.4 bln (-53.97%)
Rank 29,  Down 16 places

Anil Ambani’s net worth more than halved this year, pushing him down the 2015 Forbes India Rich List. The shares of most of his listed entities fell at the BSE, impacted by weak economic sentiment and delays in project execution: Flagship Reliance Communications slid 42 percent, financial services firm Reliance Capital fell 39 percent and that of Reliance Infrastructure halved. But he has been busy restructuring some businesses and entering fresh deals. He sold his Big Cinemas multiplex business to rival Carnival Cinemas in December last year for a reported Rs 700 crore and is looking to sell part of Reliance Communications’ tower business to prune its $5.8 billion debt, moves that could see an enhancement in his fortunes in the future.

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers
Anil Agarwal
-$1.54 bln (-44%)
Rank 51, 
Down 27 places
This metals magnate, who once threatened to challenge the ranks of the richest Indians, has fallen off the top 50, with a sharp $1.5 billion decline in wealth this year. The shares of his London Stock Exchange-listed metals and mining conglomerate Vendanta Resources have more than halved in the year, due to falling commodity prices. The company’s Indian arm Vedanta Ltd (earlier Sesa Sterlite) has also lost two-thirds of its value in a year at the BSE. The domestic arm has been forced to cut costs and jobs in 2015 in a competitive environment, as imports have risen and global aluminium prices (Vedanta is India’s largest aluminium producer) have fallen.

Mangal Prabhat Lodha
-$1.05 bln (-33.87%)
Rank 45, 
Down 18 places
The politician, who ranks among the country’s biggest property developers, faced rough weather—like his peers in the industry—due to issues facing the property sector and construction activity. The privately held Lodha Group had last year announced plans to develop properties in central London, where it bought two high profile buildings—one on Carey Street and another being McDonald House—for a combined $645 million. But analysts say that the group’s debt level has gone up, while there was no immediate visibility in terms of revenues.

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers
Lakshmi Mittal
-$4.6 bln (- 29.11%)
Rank 8, 
Down 3 places
Steel baron Lakshmi Mittal slipped in the rankings for the second straight year as his ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steel-maker, got hit by the sharp increase in exports from China combined with a slow growth in demand for steel globally. In August this year, ArcelorMittal said it was planning to shut down two mills in South Africa (SA) citing worsening trading conditions including weak demand and lower prices. The company is also reviewing its largest plant in Vanderbijlpark in SA which it says continues to be unprofitable—it will be evaluated before the end of October. ArcelorMittal’s European business also remains under pressure due to lower average selling prices of steel. All of this plus the burden of debt is clearly weighing down Mittal’s prospects.

2015 Forbes India Rich List: The biggest gainers and losers
Malvinder and Shivinder Singh
- $560 mln (-24.03%)
Rank 63; 
Down 26 places
The siblings, who had sold off their pharma business (Ranbaxy) seven years ago, have since diversified and focussed on building health care and financial services businesses. Their Fortis Healthcare is a nationwide chain of 55 hospitals but continues to be in the red as it struggles with high debt, which it is trying to combat by selling off its overseas assets. Younger brother Shivinder, 40, in September announced that he was renouncing the corporate world; stepping down from his role as executive vice chairman of Fortis, he said he would get involved with a spiritual group Radha Soami Satsang Beas, to which the family is already linked.

(This story appears in the 29 October, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)