How to become a USD billionaire in India ?

The latest issue of Forbes India (Dec 2013) had a listing of the Top 100 wealthiest Indians. It becomes my solemn duty to analyse that list and find if there are some recurring themes behind many such billionaires, so that some of you could use that fact for shaping the rest of your lives.

I have looked at the Top 50 wealthiest here for a quick analysis. These 50 accounted for 215bn$ wealth (out of the 260bn$ for the top 100). Some observations are :

  • 9 of the top 50 are owners of Pharma businesses. Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharma tops the list with USD13.9bn. Poonawalla’s vaccines have earned him 4bn. The others in decreasing order of wealth are owners of Lupin, Ranbaxy, Cipla, Reddy Labs, Cadilla, Piramal Healthcare, Alkem. Of these 2 businesses have been sold already – Ranbaxy to Daiichi and Piramal to Abbot Labs. The next 50 also brag names like Torrent, Divi’s, Mankind, almost completing the who’s who of Pharma owners.
  • 8 Owners of all top 4 IT software development companies figure in the top 100 – Azim Premji at USD13.8bn leads this list, followed by Pallonji Mistry – yes, I have decided to classify him into IT because majority of his wealth comes from his 18% holding of Tata Sons, which in turn is driven to the extent of 60-70% by TCS. Shiv Nadar at 8.6bn rings it in for HCL Tech. All 5 Infosys founders (including K Dinesh) find themselves in the top 100 list, with the Big 3 (NRN, Nandan, Krish) in Top 50. Between the 5, they have USD6bn. Valuation-wise, TCS leads the race, with Infy, Wipro and HCL following in that order. But the higher stakes that Premji and Nadarji own make them wealthier than the Infy quintet.
  • 4 owners of Indian FMCG companies make it to the top 50 – Anand Burman of Dabur, Vijay Chauhan of Parle Biscuits, Harsh Mariwala of Marico and Pepsi Bottler Ravi Jaipuria. Commendable job done by these guys in light of the intense competition with global FMCG majors – HUL, P&G, Nestle, GSK etc.
  • DLF, Lodha and Raheja owners make it to the top 50. RE, as expected makes it bigger presence felt in the next 50 with Kalpataru, Hiranandani, Embassy, Sobha, Prestige, Panchshil.
  • 6 Diversified Group owners figure in the list. Hindujas at 9bn lead this list, followed by Adi Godrej at 8.3bn, KM Birla at 7.6bn, Anil Ambani at 6.2bn, Ruia brothers at 5.5bn and Rajan Raheja at 1.6. Tatas are conspicuous by their absence, let down by their minor holdings in their own group companies. I have classified Reliance’s Mukeshbhai into Oil and Gas – and yes, you are right, he is the wealthiest Indian with 21bn$.
  • Then there are 2 players each from  :
    • Steel – Lakshmi Mittal at 16bn and Jindals at 4.9bn
    • Two-wheelers – Bajaj and Munjals (Hero)
    • Retail – Micky Jagtiani (Landmark Group – Lifestyle etc) and Yusuf Ali (Lulu stores) – both based out of Middle-East
    • Media – SunTV and Bennet & Coleman (Times of India)
  • One each of Telecom (Sunil Mittal), Education (Sunny Varkey GEMS schools, Middle-East), Financial Services (Kotak), Metals (Vedanta’s Anil Agrawal), Power (Adani), Consumer electronics (Dhoots of Videocon), Airlines (Bhatias of Indigo), Cement (Bangurs of Shree Cement), Adhesives (Parekh of Pidilite), Paints (Asian Paints – again all 3 founders are in top 100).


So, looks like the smartest way up into the billionaire list is to start a pharmaceutical or IT business or surprise, surprise, venture into Real Estate (11 of top 100). But then, that was the formula to adopt 10-20 yrs back to become a billionaire in 2013. I think that, sectors from where new billionaires will come in the next 10-20 years may be coming from will be:

  • Online portals
  • Alternative energy companies
  • Micro-Financial services
  • Banks (though I think regulatorily, this might be tough to do with owners supposed to pare their ownership to 10%. Possibly, Uday Kotak will also slip from Top 50 if finally forced to reduce his ownership below 10%)
  • Rural and agri-focused companies
  • Export-oriented companies.

Hope this helps :) .


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