Mukesh Ambani tops Forbes list of India's richest
RIL chief Mukesh Ambani retains his No. 1 rank for the third straight year, followed by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, though both are less well off than they were a year ago.business Updated: Sep 30, 2010 12:56 IST
One of the world's fastest-growing economies continued its onward march, boosting the fortunes of its 100 richest. Amid further disenchantment with national infrastructure undertakings, such as the botched preparation for the Commonwealth Games, Indian tycoons continue to flourish, sometimes off those same public projects.
India's rising stock market and a booming economy that's expanding by 8.5% this year swelled the top 100's net worth, as evidenced by the fact that 69 of them are billionaires.
The four richest Indians are worth a combined $86 billion, well short of the $180 billion record they set three years ago. Mukesh Ambani retains his No. 1 rank for the third straight year, followed by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, though both are less well off than they were a year ago. Infotech tycoon Azim Premji moves up to third place, displacing younger Ambani sibling Anil Ambani, who despite making peace with his brother, dropped to No. 6.
The biggest gainer in percentage terms was media baron Kalanithi Maran, who made a splash with his purchase of a big stake in low-cost airline SpiceJet. His net worth rose 74%.
This year's list signals a second wave of Indian capitalists accumulating fantastic fortunes, after an initial slew earlier in the decade. In between, Indian wealth suffered a huge correction in 2008, when only 27 were billionaires. If the first wave was typified by IT, steel and energy fortunes, this wave features more pharma and property titans.
Vijay Mallya, who provides pharma of a different kind (booze), came in at No. 44, with a net worth of $1.45 billion. A revival in air travel perked up Naresh Goyal's fortune as he landed at No. 52 with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
Some fortunes took a hit. Property baron Kushal Pal Singh, owner of debt-laden DLF, lost nearly one-third of his wealth despite a real estate rebound. Also poorer is Brijmohan Lall Munjal, following a family split and reports that Honda ( HMC - news - people ) may end its 26-year joint venture with his Hero Honda.
Wind energy entrepreneur Tulsi Tanti, whose Suzlon Energy got weighed down by debt, took a hit--dropping to No. 69 from No. 33 last year--with a net worth of $1 billion. Slum redeveloper Rakesh Wadhawan dropped to No. 77 because of a division of the family's assets with his nephews.
Falling off the list was Pravin Kumar Tayal, who sold his Bank of Rajasthan to ICICI Bank ( IBN - news - people ) and was barred from the capital market by the Securities & Exchange Board of India.
There are five returnees to the top 40 from previous years, three of them pharma entrepreneurs: Ajay Piramal, who sold part of his domestic business to Abbott for an eye-popping $3.7 billion; Pankaj Patel, whose Cadila Healthcare launched India's first swine flu vaccine; and Desh Bandhu Gupta, whose Lupin has gained lately in the U.S. generics market.
A prominent returnee is the reclusive Pallonji Mistry, the largest shareholder of Tata Sons, the holding outfit of the Tata conglomerate. He was excluded from the list after he became an Irish citizen but brought back due to his business ties to India.
A fortune of $500 million was needed to make the grade. The net worths are a snapshot of wealth, based on share prices and exchange rates on Sept. 9, 2010. Since then Mumbai's Sensex has gained 5%.