Richest Indians: How Indian Entrepreneurs Fared in 2012
ndia’s rich have made a comeback, at least of sorts. The combined wealth of the country’s 100 richest people has inched up by about $9 billion to $250.6 billion in 2012. A bit of the ground conceded last year has been regained, thanks to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s delayed but much needed reform push and a rekindled Sensex. This year, we have more billionaires—61, from 57 in 2011—and the entry barrier has gone a little higher with at least $460 million needed to make the coveted list, from $370 million a year earlier.
Internationally too, Indian billionaires have fared better than most of their BRIC counterparts. The top 25 in India are second only to their Russian peers in accumulated wealth. Russia, along with China, has fewer billionaires than last year. But when it comes to the richest Americans, this year none of the Indians would make it to their top 10. Last year, Mukesh Ambani, who seems to have cemented his place at the top of the India Rich List, would have.
Behind the numbers, the India Rich List is an intriguing story of admirable successes, glorious comebacks and some ignominious exits. The pharmaceuticals sector’s strong performance is led by Dilip Shanghvi , who has broken into the top five with a $2.5 billion jump, the biggest gainer in absolute value. Fellow pharma entrepreneur Habil Khorakhiwala continues his remarkable turnaround after making a comeback in the 2011 List. This year, he is the biggest percentage gainer. The Hinduja brothers, bolstered by a growing Indian business, mark their maiden entry on the list with a top 10 ranking. Shree Cement owner Benu Gopal Bangur’s 100 percent rise in wealth mirrors the rising fortunes of the sector.
Not surprisingly, the wealth of businessmen from the debt-burdened infrastructure sector shrank most. The most notable of them is Gautam Adani, whose coffer is lighter by $4.3 billion. Among the 10 drop-outs, six, including Tulsi Tanti, have interests in the power sector. While most of the retailers increased their wealth, the notable exception is the king himself. Kishore Biyani, under a mountain of debt despite selling Pantaloons to Kumar Mangalam Birla, has dropped off. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals founder Gracias Saldanha passed away earlier this year and is replaced by older son Glenn on the list.
India might be bustling with the energy of its 65 percent of population under the age of 30, but most of the wealth is still in the hands of the elders. While the average age of the richest 50 individuals has increased from last year, there is half a century’s gap between the youngest (Shivinder Singh) and the oldest (Brijmohan Lall Munjal). Geographically, India’s richest are more widely spread this year, with financial capital Mumbai returning a smaller number for the third straight year. Did anyone mention regional imbalance?
- Prince Mathews Thomas
Image: B Mathur / Reuters
1. Mukesh Ambani
Source: Oil & gas
Age: 55. Married, 3 children
Ambani is the richest Indian for the fifth straight year despite his fortune falling for the third year in a row. Still his Reliance Industries remains India’s most valuable company despite ongoing battles with federal oil ministry over KG-D6, country’s largest offshore gas field, where output has sharply declined and which has been subject of scrutiny by a federal auditor. In August, after a two-year deadlock, it got conditional approval for its drilling plans but not its much lobbied-for price increase for gas. Final approval is pending another federal audit.
Wife Nita, who oversees Reliance Foundation, launched country’s first Braille newspaper in Hindi in March and has pledged to donate her eyes upon her death.
2. Lakshmi Mittal
Age: 62. Married, 2 children
Steel baron continues to lose ground; his fortune dropped more than $3 billion since last year, $10 billion in two years, as shares of his ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, tanked due to surging costs and slumping demand in Europe. They hit a low in August when S&P downgraded the steelmaker’s rating to junk status. It has been selling non-core assets to reduce its $22 billion debt and shutting down idle plants; in May, it sold American unit Skyline Steel to Nucor for $605 million. In October it said it was closing two idle furnaces in France and two in Belgium. Expressing frustration over slow progress in his native India he’s put plans to build two steel mills which have been stalled there for years, on low priority.
Longtime London resident, he and his son Aditya were the torch bearers for the 2012 Olympics Torch Relay. The 377-foot-tall Mittal-funded ArcelorMittal Orbit, made largely out of recycled steel, is the UK’s tallest sculpture.
3. Azim Premji
Source: Information technology
Age: 67. Married, 2 children
Shares of Premji’s Wipro remained virtually flat in what is seen as a difficult market for outsourcing firms as they scramble for new contracts. An auction of Wipro’s stock owned by his trust in March drew a tepid response, resulting in only half of the shares offered being sold. He was among a group of tycoons to accompany Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress Party boss, to Kashmir in October to assess investment prospects in that state. One of Asia’s most generous persons, Premji, who gave $2 billion in 2010 to his foundation to build a university among much else, co-hosted a philanthropy meeting in Bangalore with Bill Gates and Ratan Tata in June.
His wife Yasmeen published her first novel in July, Days of Gold and Sepia
4. Pallonji Mistry
Age: 83. Married, 4 children
Irish citizen and patriarch of construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji Group, handed over the chairman’s mantle of group to older son Shapoor in June. Younger son Cyrus is set to replace Indian business legend Ratan Tata as chairman of Tata Sons when Tata retires in December. Mistry’s family has long been the biggest shareholder in Tata Sons, the holding outfit of the $100 billion (revenues) conglomerate, with an 18.4 percent stake, but this will be the first time a family member will be in charge. Family’s fortune is up $2.2 billion this year, after new disclosures on holdings.
Son Shapoor, a horse racing enthusiast, owns a stud farm in Pune that his dad gave him as a birthday gift many years ago.