India's 100 richest top their Chinese counterparts
Happier days are here again for India's super rich, thanks to a rebounding stock market, up two-thirds in the past year, and a still buoyant economy that's growing at least 6 per cent a year. The nation is now home to 52 billionaires, up from 27 last year and only two short of what India had at the peak of its stock market boom in 2007.
The combined fortune of India's 100 richest is $276 billion, almost one-fourth the country's GDP. That is well below the total worth of $775 billion for the 100 richest Americans, but well ahead of the equivalent sum for China's top 100. Although China has more billionaires --79 vs. India's 52 --India's wealthiest are worth over $100 billion more than the $170 billion total net worth of their Chinese counterparts.
India's wealthiest person, once again Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani, has a fortune of $32 billion, more than five times the $5.8 billion net worth of BYD's Wang Chuanfu, China's richest citizen at the time we published our China 400 rankings earlier this month. (Wang's fortune has since dropped along with BYD's shares.)
Steel baron and U.K. resident Lakshmi Mittal, who oversees the world's largest steel company, ArcelorMittal from London, is a close second with a $30 billion fortune. Mukesh's estranged brother Anil, who's locked in a bitter court battle over a gas supply agreement with his older sibling, is ranked at No 3. Overall, the top three are worth $79.5 billion, $25.7 billion more than their combined sum a year ago, though still far shy of their record total of $145 billion in 2007. The top 10 are worth $155 billion, a 60 per cent increase over last year and four times that of China's top 10.
A recovering real estate market was one of the biggest sources of wealth, producing 14 rich-listers, over half of them billionaires. Property barons who had gorged on debt in the boom years worked furiously to pay it off, a move that boosted their stocks. These included the country's richest real estate magnate, Kushal Pal Singh, who sold 10 per cent of his family's holding in flagship DLF to buy out D.E. Shaw's stake in an unlisted arm and is selling other assets to lighten its debt load.
Thirteen tycoons made their money in India's pharmaceutical industry, best known for producing low-cost generics but increasingly shifting into the riskier business of developing drugs. Among the more notable pharma tycoons are Cyrus Poonawalla, whose privately held Serum Institute of India is racing to develop a swine flu vaccine; and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, India's richest self-made woman, whose Biocon is developing the world's first oral insulin. She is one of six women to make the ranks.
Lagging infrastructure and perennial power shortages have long plagued the nation. Those who seized the opportunity to address those issues have done well for themselves in light of the government's increased spending on infrastructure and energy. Among this lot are G.V. K. Reddy, who's sprucing up Mumbai's airport, the country's busiest. He is one of 16 tycoons who climbed back into the billionaire ranks this year after an absence of a year or more. New billionaires included brothers Sudhir and Samir Mehta, who got a jolt from their Torrent Power holdings.
India's export-driven software sector, which took a hit in the global slowdown, is looking up a bit and hiring again after a temporary freeze. It produced some of the country's bigger fortunes, including that of tech tycoon Azim Premji, ranked fourth on the list with $14.9 billion, and HCL Group's Shiv Nadar at No 15, who anointed his 28-year-old daughter Roshni his successor this year. Infosys Technologies, which is hiring 20,000 people this year, produced five of the top 100 tycoons--three of whom are billionaires--more than any other company.
Unlike the previous two years, when Indian business tycoons went on a global hunt to expand their empires, 2009 was a relatively quiet year. An exception was telecom tycoon Sunil Mittal, who made a second attempt to pull off a mega-merger with South Africa's MTN, only to have the deal collapse after months of negotiations.
Media is suffering in most parts of the world, but Indian media moguls have been relatively fortunate. Notable among these is Kalanithi Maran, the king of regional television broadcasting, whose Sun TV Network is one of Asia's hottest media plays. Maran's is one of five fortunes from Chennai. The city that produced the greatest number of rich-listers was Mumbai, which more than one-third call home, followed by Delhi. Bangalore was a distant third.
The bios of the 100 wealthiest Indians come from the latest issue of Forbes India. Concurrently, Forbes Asia released its sixth annual list of India's 40 richest.
Additional reporting by Sanchita Das, Anuradha Raghunathan, Luisa Kroll, Suzanne Nam and Devon Pendleton.
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 stock prices and exchange rates as of Oct. 16. Privately held fortunes were valued at book value or by coupling estimates of revenues, profits or book value to prevailing ratios for similar publicly traded companies. Unlike the Forbes billionaires list, the ranking has been broadened to include some family fortunes. Indian citizenship was required.