India’s billionaires list rises to all time high of 56: Forbes

The number of Indian billionaires inched up to 56 with a collective net worth of $191.5 billion compared with last year's haul of 55 names worth $193.6 billion, as per the latest global ranking of the super-rich by Forbes. The decline in the wealth of Indian billionaires was due to weak economy and falling rupee, the Forbes said.

Reliance Industries’ chief and business tycoon Mukesh Ambani continued to be India’s richest person for the 7th year in a row with a total worth of $18.5 billion. He was followed by Lakshmi Mittal (ArcelorMittal), Azim Premji (Wipro), Dilip Shangvi (Sun Pharma) and Shiv Nadar (HCL), among the top five from India.

The Indian fat cats, who once occupied four slots in the top 10 list of global billionaires (2008), has fallen down the years with Ambani the leader of the pack at #40. This is lowest rank for Mukesh Ambani since being placed at 56th in 2006 with a net worth of $8.5 billion—the first year when Mukesh and his younger brother Anil Ambani were ranked separately by Forbes after their split.

His net worth declined to $18.6 billion, against $21.5 billion in last year’s rankings, when he occupied the 22nd slot globally, as the group flagship Reliance Industries has been an underperformer on the Indian bourses.

Lakshmi Mittal, who in 2005 enjoyed the number 3 rank in the global rich list, continues his slide and in the latest ranking came at the 52nd position from #41 last year.

HCL promoter Shiv Nadar was the biggest gainer and saw his wealth rise from $6.6 billion to $11.1 billion. He was the only new name among the top five replacing Ruias of Essar. Brothers Shashi & Ravi Ruia were the biggest dollar losers for this year as their wealth declined by $3.6 billion after shares of their London-listed Essar Energy slumped, thus sliding to number 12 position from 5 last year.

Other big gainer was Wipro chief Azim Premji, whose wealth rose $4.1 billion to $15.3 billion. Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shanghvi added $3.4 billion in net worth to $12.8 billion.

Ranjan Pai of Manipal Group is the youngest Indian billionaire at 41. The list continued to have just two women billionaires from India, including media giant Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd chairman Indu Jain and Savitri Jindal, whose four sons run their own separate steel companies.

Those who dropped out of the latest billionaires list include Habil Khorakiwala of Wockhardt, Rajan Raheja, Vikas Oberoi, GM Rao, Joy Alukkas and Anji Reddy of Dr Reddy’s Labs who passed away last year.

Interestingly, Forbes billionaires list, which takes into account family wealth when there is no single head of a business group, had omitted the promoter group of pharmaceutical giant Dr Reddy’s. This is despite the promoters holding in the flagship company alone being worth around $2 billion. Last year the group patriarch Anji Reddy was part of the billionaires list.

Among the entrants to the list including those who re-entered the ranking include construction magnate Ravi Pillai, Sunny Varkey (GEMS Education), BR Shetty (NMC Healthcare & UAE Exchange), Harindarpal Banga (shipping, commodity trading), Vikram Lal (Eicher), K Dinesh & family (Infosys), Lakshman Das Mittal (Sonalika).

These include those who reside overseas but hold Indian passports.

Billionaires of Indian origin who hold passports of other countries include names like Pallonji Mistry (the largest shareholder of Tata Sons), Ananda Krishnan, Hindujas, K Ram Shriram, Vinod Khosla, Ashok Hiranandani, SP Lohia, Aloke Lohia, Bharat Desai and Romesh Wadhwani.

Globally, Microsoft founder Bill Gates topped the rank of the world’s billionaires after a four-year hiatus with a fortune of $76 billion. For the past four years, Mexico-based telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu held the position of world’s number 1 billionaire. Helu was at number 2 with a total net worth of $72 billion.

This year, the list has 1,645 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from 1,426 billionaires with net worth of $5.4 trillion a year ago. The list features a record 268 new ten-figure fortunes, including 42 new women billionaires. The total number of women billionaires in the world swelled to 172, from 138 last year.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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