Anubhav Gupta, assistant director of the Asia Society Policy Institute, in his conversation with James Crabtree, author of The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age, discussed India’s Billionaires in 2018. The conversation covered how India’s super-rich have grown in number over the past two decades, how they have altered their country’s perception in the eyes of the world, and the specter of corruption that looms over India’s economic future.
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of India’s Richest 2018. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of mobile payments giant Paytm, seems unstoppable. In August, billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway invested $300 million in Sharma’s firm, joining a galaxy of marquee investors such as Alibaba and SoftBank. “It’s an endorsement of the India story. I feel more responsibility than ever before,” says Sharma of Buffett’s bet, which valued Paytm north of $10 billion and boosted the 40-year-old’s net worth.
A rout in the rupee–down 13% since we last measured fortunes a year ago–practically wiped out the Indian stock market’s 14% rise in the same period. Even so, 11 of the nation’s 100 richest saw their fortunes jump by $1 billion or more. Oil and gas tycoon Mukesh Ambani added $9.3 billion amid the continuing success of his Reliance Jio broadband telco service. He remains at No. 1 for the 11th year in a row.
The biggest gainer percentage wise is biotech queen Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of only 4 women on the list, who saw her wealth soar by two thirds. Shares of her Biocon jumped when it received approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration last December for a cancer drug codeveloped with Mylan and have nearly doubled in the past 12 months.
Overall, the top 100 have eked out only a 2.7% gain in their combined wealth to $492 billion since our 2017 list. Close to half are poorer, six of them by $1 billion or more. Among them is Acharya Balkrishna, cofounder of herbal consumer goods maker Patanjali Ayurved, whose fortune fell by more than a fourth as sales slowed. Higher fuel prices took a toll on the wealth of Kapil & Rahul Bhatia, the father-son pair behind IndiGo, the country’s biggest airline, which at least gained market share as rivals reeled under financial woes.
Graphite India’s Krishna Kumar Bangur is number 91 on the list. Among the five new faces are Krishna Kumar Bangur, who controls Graphite India, which is benefiting from acute demand from the steel sector for its graphite electrodes; and south Indian infrastructure magnate P.P. Reddy of Megha Engineering & Infrastructure.
Eight dropped off the list, including Rana Kapoor, whose Yes Bank shares plunged after the Reserve Bank of India said he must step down as CEO in January. The regulator’s move was reportedly a response to inadequate disclosure of bad loans, which Yes Bank has denied. The fortune of paints tycoon Ashwin Choksi, who died in September, is now listed under his family.
This list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and India’s regulatory agencies. The ranking lists family fortunes, including those shared among extended families such as the Godrej and Bajaj families. Public fortunes were calculated based on stock prices and exchange rates as of September 21. Private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded.