After the surge in expectations last year, 2015 has been about coming to terms with realities on the ground for Indian business. Over 16 months into its term, the Narendra Modi government still has the broad support of India Inc, but the euphoria has made way for practical optimism as it becomes evident that the road to reform could be long and, in some cases, painstaking. The 2015 Forbes India Rich List is clearly a reflection of this change.
The 30-share S&P BSE Sensex, the barometer of market sentiment, has shed over five percent over the past year until September 11, 2015, the cut-off date for calculating the wealth of the 100 richest Indians. Consequently, the aggregate wealth of the 100 remained virtually flat at $345 billion, even as there was churn within the list itself. This is in contrast to last year’s list, which saw the combined wealth increase by 34 percent, powered by a rise of over 30 percent in the markets. The one common factor with last year: This year too, all 100 are billionaires, with the cut-off having risen just a shade to $1.1 billion from 2014’s $1 billion.
Consider also that while the top three—Mukesh Ambani, Dilip Shanghvi and Azim Premji—hold their ranks from last year, as many as ten listers saw their wealth decline by over $1 billion from a year ago. There are 12 newcomers, and four returnees; 32 of those who feature from last year saw a decline in their wealth, nine managed to hold on, and 43 saw their wealth increase.
In terms of sectors, pharmaceuticals had a major contribution, with over 15 percent share of the total wealth, followed by software and consumer goods. Pharma also threw up a number of significant wealth gainers, while those from metals and real estate took big hits. Not surprising, given that the BSE Healthcare index has gained 23.5 percent in the past year, followed by the BSE Consumer Durables and BSE IT indices. By contrast, the BSE Metal index fell by 43 percent, followed by BSE Realty (27 percent) and BSE Oil & Gas (24 percent).
These statistics aside, the biggest story of the 2015 List is the emergence of the internet billionaires. Sachin and Binny Bansal, the feisty founders of Flipkart, make their debut at rank 86 each with wealth of $1.3 billion apiece, a clear sign of the shifting power equations among India’s rich and the growing clout of the new economy. As changing demographics impact businesses, the transformation of the Indian economy is sure to throw up new names who will challenge the old order. That is the fascinating story which is bound to play out over the next few years.Check out Indian billionaires by the numbers
Editor, Forbes India
(This story appears in the 29 October, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)