Like every year, the Forbes Billionaires List 2015 has thrown up a fresh pecking order of 1,826 billionaires around the world. And like all times it has grabbed enough media and public attention. The whole lot worth $7.05 trillion, combine the wealth of last year’s $6.4 trillion and that of 290 more. The top 5 richest Indians have retained their positions, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj.
The richest 500 of this congregation boast of a total worth of $4.7 trillion which indicates happy times for them despite a weakening European economy, plunging oil prices and global economic turmoil. Featured in it are a record number of 90 Indian billionaires, 28 debutants, making for a combined net worth of $295 billion.
The top 5 richest Indians have retained their positions.
And the foremost of them is Mukesh Ambani with his wealth pegged at $21 billion and placed at a global rank of 39. His Reliance Industries Limited is an international holding firm specializing in energy, telecom and retail.
The second spot, however, has been taken over by pharmaceutical tycoon Dilip Shanghvi, at $20 billion and slotted at 44 in global ranking. His generic-drug making firm, Sun Pharmaceuticals recently acquired Indian rival Ranbaxy Laboratories for $4 billion and is reportedly venturing into wind energy by picking up a 23 percent stake in debt-laden firm Suzlon.
Such have been his latest dramatic gains that a few local reports adjudge him to have surpassed Ambani.
For steel baron, Lakshmi Mittal shares of Arcelor Mittal slid by $3.2 billion since last year and $17.6 billion since 2011, thus pushing him down to the fifth slot.
India’s newest billionaires to have made it to this coveted assortment include banker Uday Kotak ($7.2 billion) whose Kotak Mahindra Bank took over an Indian rival ING Vysya Bank from the Dutch ING Group.
Ports tycoon Gautam Adani, another big gainer, is a fellow Gujarati like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose shares zoomed up since last Lok Sabha polls enabling an addition of $4.5 billion to his value.
Making deals is his forte´, which include purchase of a port in eastern India from the Tata Group for $930 million and concluding a $1 billion deal for taking over a power plant in southern India.
Reports suggest that Adani is vying with Sajjan Jindal, owner of JSW, for a majority stake and management control in Monnet Power from Sandeep Jajodia’s Monnet Ispat & Energy.
New comers also include motorcycle tycoon, Vikram Lal, four members of the Burman clan of Dabur fame, the Dhingra brothers of Berger Paints, Radhe Shyam Agarwal and Radhe Shyam Goenka, co-founders of consumer goods firm Emami, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar, Hinduja Brothers, Ananda Krishnan, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Sunil Mittal and family, Cyrus Poonawalla, and Desh Bandhu Gupta.
The newest billionaires from the country are of course Achal Bakeri, son of a property magnate, maker of Symphony air coolers and Mumbai-based real estate magnate Subhash Runwal who initialed with less than $2.
The coveted list is not devoid of the fair gender occupying space and is sprinkled with a record number of 197 women, including 5 Indians, as compared to a total of 172 in 2014.
Post decline period of three years, Savitri Jindal and family, with a net worth of $5.3 billion in 2015 is ranked 283rd on the list.
In 2014 the O.P. Jindal Group led by the matriarch was at $4.9 billion.
Next in line comes Indu Jain, chairing media conglomerate Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd., with a net worth at $3.1 billion and placed at 603rd.
Anu Aga, owner of 62 percent of engineering firm Thermax is ranked 1,312th on the list, boasting of a wealth measuring up to $1.5 billion.
An Indian debutant, late Vinod Gupta, wife of Qimat Rai Gupta of Havells India, is ranked at 1,533rd with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
The fifth in line is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder of medicinal drugs company, Biocon, and placed at 1,741st with a fortune of $1 billion.
Notably most women in the list are inheritors of fortune from either fathers or husbands and only 29 of the total 197 are self-made billionaires.
Location profiles of Indian billionaires reveal that 30 of the country’s 68 billionaires live in Mumbai, the financial capital. The city is ranked sixth on the list of 20 global cities surveyed in the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2015.
This report places India at 7th among 97 surveyed countries and forecasts a rise by 110 percent in the billionaire population of Mumbai by 2024.
A second survey conducted by Knight Frank on Ultra High Net Worth Individuals puts the net worth of 1,652 of this population at higher than $30 million.
Although India’s billionaire-basket is brimming full and the stock market is registering 28 percent gains since January, the country is faced with a twin paradox.
One is the rising inequities aggravated with an economy lagging at 5.7 percent and food inflation touching double digits.
And the other is the wealthy leaving the country, mostly for the U.S. and UK, or seeking alternative citizenships while the government continues to grapple with how to get back the black money stashed abroad.