Mukesh Ambani added nearly $48 billion to his fortune since last year, and reclaimed the title of Asia’s richest person.
Another Covid-19 wave is sweeping across India and total cases now exceed 12 million. But the country’s stock market has shrugged off its pandemic funk to scale new peaks; the benchmark Sensex is up 75% from a year ago. The total number of Indian billionaires rose to 140 from 102 last year; their combined wealth has nearly doubled to $596 billion.
Prosperity rules at the very top: The three richest Indians alone have added just over $100 billion between them. Mukesh Ambani, who has successfully diversified his oil and gas empire into fast-rising sectors such as telecom and retail, reclaimed his spot as Asia’s richest person, with a net worth of $84.5 billion.
Infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani got a staggering $42 billion richer as shares of his companies, including Adani Enterprises and Adani Green Energy, rocketed. With his fortune up five-fold since 2020, Adani is now the second-richest Indian, a spot previously occupied by retailing king Radhakishan Damani, whose fortune was divided this year. His brother Gopikishan Damani is listed separately for the first time based on new information about his holdings. Adani, who shares Gujarati roots and a deal-making instinct with Ambani, expanded aggressively into airports, unfazed by the travel slowdown. He also secured France’s Total, his partner in the gas business, to invest in his renewable energy company.
Two of the ten richest Indians get their wealth from healthcare, a sector that’s enjoying a pandemic boost around the world. Vaccine billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India, run by his 40-year-old son Adar, joined the Covid-19 vaccines race early by forging multiple partnerships and investing $800 million in building a new factory. Jabs of Poonawalla’s Covishield, the made-in-India version of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Oxford University-AstraZeneca combine, are now being given across the country and exported as well. After slipping last year, pharma magnate Dilip Shanghvi climbed back into the top 10, propelled by a jump in shares of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries.
Nineteen Indian newcomers joined the list, while another 19 returned to the list after falling off in the past. Among the new faces is octogenarian Prathap Reddy, founder and chairman of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise, whose chain of Apollo Hospitals is treating Covid-19 patients. Arvind Lal, who founded and runs diagnostics chain Dr.Lal PathLabs, which got government approval to conduct Covid-19 tests, also makes his debut.
Here are India’s 10 richest people; net worths are as of March 5, 2021:
#1 | Mukesh Ambani
NET WORTH: $84.5 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: DIVERSIFIED
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Ambani accomplished a fund-raising feat, garnering $35 billion through a string of deals to achieve his target of reducing his flagship Reliance Industries’ net debt to zero by 2021. He also sold a third of telecom unit Jio to marquee investors such as Facebook and Google and offloaded 10% of Reliance Retail to private equity firms such as KKR and General Atlantic, plus concluded a $7.3 billion rights issue of Reliance shares.
#2 | Gautam Adani
NET WORTH: $50.5 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: INFRASTRUCTURE
Adani acquired a 74% stake in Mumbai International Airport, the country’s second-busiest, last September. He also sold 20% in his listed renewables firm, Adani Green Energy, to French energy giant Total for $2.5 billion.
#3 | Shiv Nadar
NET WORTH: $23.5 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: SOFTWARE SERVICES
The tech titan stepped down as chairman of $9.9 billion (revenues) HCL Technologies last July, handing over the position to his only daughter, Roshni Nadar Malhotra.
#4 | Radhakishan Damani
NET WORTH: $16.5 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: RETAIL, INVESTMENTS
The low-profile retailing king’s listed supermarket chain Avenue Supermarts operates 221 DMart stores across the country. His brother Gopikishan is also a billionaire.
#5 | Uday Kotak
NET WORTH: $15.9 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: BANKING
India’s richest banker founded and runs Kotak Mahindra Bank, which is among the country’s top four in the private sector. Last June, Kotak sold shares worth $950 million to reduce his stake in the bank to 26% as mandated by the Reserve Bank of India.
#6 | Lakshmi Mittal
NET WORTH: $14.9 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: STEEL
In February, Mittal stepped down as CEO of ArcelorMittal, the $53.3 billion (revenue) steel behemoth, ceding the spot to his son, Aditya. Mittal remains executive chairman of the company.
#7 | Kumar Birla
NET WORTH: $12.8 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: COMMODITIES
Fourth generation heir of a sprawling commodities empire, Birla’s expansion into telecom has cost him dearly. His Vodafone Idea, rebranded as Vi, a joint venture between his Idea Cellular and U.K.’s Vodafone Group, has been racking up losses battling Ambani’s Jio.
#8 | Cyrus Poonawalla
NET WORTH: $12.7 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: VACCINES
Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines by number of doses, is on the frontlines of India’s fight against Covid-19, with multiple vaccine partnerships orchestrated by his son Adar, Serum’s CEO. Adar also struck a deal this year to acquire a 60% stake in listed finance firm Magma Fincorp for $475 million.
#9 | Dilip Shanghvi
NET WORTH: $10.9 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: PHARMACEUTICALS
Shanghvi, who founded and runs listed generics drug maker Sun Pharmaceuticals, returns to the top ten, thanks to a 68% jump in the company’s shares.
#10 | Sunil Mittal & family
NET WORTH: $10.5 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: TELECOM
His Bharti Airtel, a joint venture with Singapore’s Singtel, is India’s second-largest telecom operator after Ambani’s Jio. In January, Mittal’s son Kavin announced on Twitter that his SoftBank-backed start-up Hike, once considered as a rising unicorn and India’s answer to WhatsApp, had shut down its messaging service.