Roshni, daughter of HCL founder Shiv Nadar, has been made vice chairman on HCL Tech’s board
Image: Amit Verma
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, one of India’s youngest billionaires and founder of mobile payments giant Paytm, seems unstoppable. In August, billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway invested $300 million in Sharma’s firm, joining a galaxy of marquee investors such as Alibaba and SoftBank. “It’s an endorsement of the India story. I feel more responsibility than ever before,” says Sharma of Buffett’s bet, which valued Paytm north of $10 billion and boosted the 40-year-old’s net worth.
A rout in the rupee—down 13 percent since we last measured fortunes a year ago—practically wiped out the stock market’s 14 percent rise in the same period. Even so, 11 of the nation’s 100 richest saw their fortunes jump by $1 billion or more. Oil and gas tycoon Mukesh Ambani added $9.3 billion amid the continuing success of his Reliance Jio broadband telco service. He remains at No. 1 for the 11th year in a row. To view the full India's 100 Richest 2018 list, click here
The biggest gainer percentage wise is biotech queen Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of only four women on the list, who saw her wealth soar by two thirds. Shares of her Biocon jumped when it received approval from the US Food & Drug Administration last December for a cancer drug co-developed with Mylan and have nearly doubled in the past 12 months.
Among the other gainers is tech czar Shiv Nadar, whose wealth is up by $1 billion, to $14.6 billion. Last fortnight, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, the only daughter of the 73-year-old HCL founder, was appointed vice chairman on the board of HCL Tech, the $8.2 billion group’s flagship company.
Overall, the top 100 have eked out only a 2.7 percent gain in their combined wealth to $492 billion since our 2017 list. Close to half are poorer, six of them by $1 billion or more. Among them is Acharya Balkrishna, co-founder of herbal consumer goods maker Patanjali Ayurved, whose fortune fell by more than a fourth as sales slowed. Higher fuel prices took a toll on the wealth of Kapil & Rahul Bhatia, the father-son pair behind IndiGo, the country’s biggest airline, which at least gained market share as rivals reeled under financial woes.
Among the five new faces are Krishna Kumar Bangur, who controls Graphite India, which is benefiting from acute demand from the steel sector for its graphite electrodes; and south Indian infrastructure magnate PP Reddy of Megha Engineering & Infrastructure.
Eight dropped off the list, including Rana Kapoor, whose Yes Bank shares dropped 29 percent in one day after the Reserve Bank of India said he must step down as CEO in January. The regulator’s move was reportedly a response to inadequate disclosure of bad loans, which Yes Bank has denied. The fortune of paints tycoon Ashwin Choksi, who died in September, is now listed under his family. Additional reporting by Megha Bahree, Sean Kilachand and Anuradha Raghunathan
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(This story appears in the 28 December, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)