India mints record 69 billionaires

2010-09-30 09:27

India’s fast-expanding economy has minted 17 new billionaires in the last 12 months, pushing the total to a record 69, according to a new Forbes Rich List released today.

Tycoon Mukesh Ambani, chairperson of India’s largest private sector firm Reliance Industries, retained his title as the richest Indian for a third year in 2010 with a worth of 27 billion dollars, Forbes said.

Ambani was closely followed by London-based steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal with a net worth of $26.1 billion.

The record number of billionaires on this year’s list “is yet another clear signal that the centre of gravity will increasingly shift to India and China over the next decade,” said Indrajit Gupta, editor of Forbes India.

Indian entrepreneurs are displaying “their ability to harness the unprecedented wealth creation opportunities that exist in this part of the world,” Gupta said.

Infotech tycoon Azim Premji moved into third place with $17.6 billion, displacing Ambani’s younger brother Anil Ambani who heads Reliance’s telecom, financial and utility businesses, and fell to sixth with $13.3 billion.

The top 40’s collective worth now stands at $243 billion, up from $229 billion a year ago, but their wealth is still shy of the $351-billion record notched up in 2007.

India’s rich suffered massive losses in 2008 when the combined net worth of the top 40 slid 60% and only 27 were billionaires as a result of the global financial crisis which sharply pulled down stock markets, “the huge correction in Indian wealth which occurred in 2008 is fast becoming a distant memory,” buoyed by a rising stock market and an economy growing by nearly 9%, the magazine commented.

The figures come amid warnings by anti-poverty groups that the gap between India’s wealthy and poor is growing steadily in the country of 1.2 billion.

Some 836 million Indians live on less than 20 rupees (about R3) a day, according to a government report, while Indian statistics on health, infant mortality, malnutrition and income are worse than those for sub-Saharan Africa. 

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