India is adding billionaires at an astonishing rate

Out with the old, in with the new?
Out with the old, in with the new?
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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Since 2010, India has added a billionaire every 33 days.

The share of Indians in the global billionaires club has grown from 1% to 5% over the last twenty years, according to a recent analysis of Forbes global billionaires lists (pdf) over that time by management consultancy Ahmadoff & Company. As of 2017, 101 Indian billionaires feature in the rankings. 

India’s richest have historically belonged to prominent business families like the Tatas, the Birlas, or the Ambanis. However, in recent years, India has witnessed a meteoric rise in the number of self-made billionaires. They now comprise more than two-thirds of the country’s billionaires. There are 70 entrepreneurial billionaires versus 31 whose wealth is rooted in family-run enterprises.

The newly rich are capitalizing on the Indian economy’s high growth rate and declining inequality in the country, Ahmadoff managing director Fakhri Ahmadov told Quartz. Over the last decade, India’s GDP has more than doubled, and the resulting wealth is distributed among more individuals than it had been historically. The average wealth of the richest five people in India decreased from $20.3 billion in 2010 to to $16.5 billion in 2017, Ahmadov says.

Nadir Bakhishov, the executive director at Ahmadoff, says the total number of billionaires in the country will likely continue to climb for two reasons: First, “increased transparency will reveal the number of unknown wealthy people in the coming years,” he told Quartz in an email statement. Second, the proliferation of specialized knowledge industries like software, pharmaceuticals, and medicine, as well as an increase in time- and cost-saving business models credited to the likes of fintech and internet companies will give rise to more entrepreneurs, he says.

The outsize growth in the billionaire population in India has been among the men. Only four women make the cut, and three of them inherited the wealth from their husbands. The only self-made female billionaire from India is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, managing director of the biopharmaceutical company Biocon.

The two industries with the most new billionaires in the last seven years were healthcare/pharmaceuticals, which added 10 people to the Forbes’ billionaires list during that period, and retail, which added seven. As of April 2017, this is the breakup of billionaires by industry:

Below are the top 10 richest billionaires in India as of April 2017: