A group of top industrialists, bankers and economists were recently summoned to New Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brainstorm on boosting India’s economic momentum. Since sweeping to power 16 months ago on a wave of euphoria, Modi has lately faced a reality check. While the economy is expected to grow by 7 percent this year, the stock market is off 5 percent from a year ago and the rupee has fallen 9 percent. These declining barometers flattened the fortunes of India’s 100 richest, whose combined wealth is nearly unchanged at $345 billion from a year ago.
Siblings Mukesh (No. 1) and Anil Ambani (No. 29), who run their independent empires and are thus listed separately, suffered the biggest hit, dropping more than $8 billion between them. Lower oil prices took a toll on older brother Mukesh’s $58 billion (revenues) oil-and-petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries, which saw its stock tumble on declining revenues.
Mukesh, whose wealth is down by 20 percent, is preparing for the delayed rollout of 4G services by his Reliance Jio. Falling shares of his group companies more than halved Anil’s total from a year ago. Unfazed, he has plans for a new venture in the defence sector.
As many as 10 listers are down by more than $1 billion each, including steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, who is poorer by $4.6 billion this year and slips three places to No. 8. After a meteoric rise in the past few years, pharma billionaire Dilip Shanghvi’s wealth is unchanged, and he remains at No. 2.
All is not gloom, however, as more than half of the 84 who return to the list this year are richer. The biggest gainer in dollar terms is vaccine-maker Cyrus Poonawalla, who set a new property record in Mumbai in buying a $110 million mansion.
Of the 12 newcomers to the 100, the richest is Dubai-based Sunil Vaswani, with vast interests in Africa. Close buddies Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, founders of Flipkart and India’s first ecommerce billionaires, make their debut this year. The upcoming IPO of airline IndiGo earns its low-profile co-founder Rakesh Gangwal a debut spot. Qimat Rai Gupta, founder of electrical-fittings maker Havells died in November 2014, and his fortune was inherited by wife Vinod Gupta. Balkrishan Goenka, one of four returnees to the list, whose Welspun supplies towels to Wimbledon, returned after a four-year gap.
Despite the weaker rupee, the minimum net worth rose to a record $1.1 billion. Of the 16 from last year who fell off, a dozen didn’t make the cut despite having $1 billion fortunes.
2015 Forbes India Rich List
MethodologyThis list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and India’s regulatory agencies. The ranking lists family fortunes, including those shared among extended families such as the Godrej and Bajaj families. Public fortunes were calculated based on stock prices and exchange rates as of September 11. Private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded.
(This story appears in the 29 October, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)