Anyone who has been to India has seen the poverty. Mumbai is home to one of the largest slums in the world. India’s per capita income is the lowest of the big four emerging markets, thanks in part to its 1.2 billion inhabitants. China has about 150,000 more people, and it’s median income is around five times that of India’s.
It’s often hard to believe how far India has gone. For a democratic society that has elections and political ideologues to deal with (unlike China), it’s done well for itself. India has been churning out billionaires by the month. The last year saw India’s old and new one-percents grow in ranks thanks to their stock equity gains and entrepreneurship in new tech-driven businesses that are catering to a growing working and middle class India. The number of Indians on the Forbes billionaire list rose to 101 from 84 last year, and while some family wealth is seen shrinking as it gets passed on two an average of two siblings per family, new money is coming up the ranks quickly.
“It’s record number historically (and) it means every 33 days brought a new Indian billionaire to the list last year,” says Fakhri Ahmadov, managing director at Ahmadoff & Company, a U.K. based wealth advisory firm. “We have always imagined Indian private capital to be in the hands of ‘old wealth’ rather than self-made entrepreneurs, however our research explains that self-made entrepreneurs, but self made account for around 65% of the wealth of billionaires and it has been stabilized at this ratio since 2010,” he says.
Reducing poverty also introduces new opportunities for entrepreneurs who both understand basic needs of society and can execute on the business side of things, often in any given economic situation. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals have added 10 business founders to the FORBES billionaires list in the last seven years, more than any industry in India. Retail added another seven billionaires during that period, Ahmadov said in a report dated April 8.
Two things have been major contributors to India’s new wealth: fast economic growth in consumer retail goods and redistribution of wealth along billionaire family lines, often creating new billionaires, especially in rupees. The Ahmadoff & Company report is for wealth managers looking to find where India’s well-heeled are making their next billion. India has seen a new billionaire added to the FORBES list almost every month since 2010.
Increased penetration of the banking system has also created opportunities for the real economy to grow, aided by an increase in funds from foreign direct investment in both the physical economy and corporate equity. One of India’s richest men, Uday Kotak, has has Kotak Bank to thank for this net worth estimated at $8 billion.
India’s corporate owners saw their share prices rise over the last year, giving them more capital to reinvest, or to cash in in exchange for bigger toys and trophies.
Billioniare Mukesh Ambani is famous for his monstrous house in Mumbai known as Antila, the Godzilla of city real estate. It is one of the most expensive homes in the world, with 400,000 square feet of space in a 27 story jenga-like tower, of which six stories is just for parking and another is for a helipad. Ambani is India’s richest man, with a net worth of $23.2 billion from the oil and gas industry.
Ambani is old school, though. He’s been on this list forever. Back in 2005, India had only 12 billionaires with Ambani. But between 2005 and 2016, India’s economy rose a whopping 170% while the world economy gained around 30%.
Some of the wealthy families in India like Sunil Mittal and family (net worth $7.5 billion) are expected to see some dilution in the years ahead.
“We expect around $65 billion in wealth will be transferred to family members during the next decade,” Ahmadov says. He estimates that only half of them would keep their billionaire status. “I think inheritance and wealth transfer will be a big, complex issue for individual Indian billionaires, but not a material one compared to new wealth being created there,” he says. “Sixty five billion dollars is only 19% of the total wealth of Indian billionaires.”
Based on FORBES metrics, India had 36 billionaires in 2005. Five years later, the total hit 55 billionaires. Over the next six years, India added 46 billionaires to its roster or roughly eight new billionaires per year since 2011.