India, the world’s second-most populous country, added at least one billionaire a week in 2020, a year that saw COVID-19 breakout, lockdowns, and a sudden spurt in mass digital adoption.
According to the Hurun Global and India Rich List 2021, India, home to the third-largest base of billionaires in the world after China and the US, saw 55 new billionaires last year, which took the number of ultra-rich up to 177. When Indian-origin, overseas billionaires are tallied in, the total count stands at 207.
“Indian wealth creation is dominated by traditional industries compared to tech-driven wealth creation in the USA and China,” said Anas Rahman Junaid, MD and chief researcher, Hurun India in a statement. “When tech-driven wealth creation reaches full potential, India could potentially beat the USA in terms of the number of billionaires.”
Tech-driven wealth creation primarily implies the wealth generated by traditional information technology companies as well as new-age tech startups.
With USD 83 billion, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, India’s biggest company by market capitalization, is the wealthiest person in India, second richest in Asia, and eighth richest in the world.
From the startup community, Byju Raveendran and his family, saw their net worth change by 100% to USD 2.8 billion. This made 39-year-old Raveendran, co-founder and CEO of edtech decacorn Byju’s, one of the top gainers in the country, as per Hurun India Rich List. The Indian edtech sector boomed last year as parents enrolled their kids to these platforms due to schools and colleges being temporarily shut to stop the spread of COVID-19. Byju’s raised over USD 1 billion from investors last year and is reportedly in talks with VCs to raise another USD 500-600 million to fuel global expansion.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of digital payment services provider Paytm is also one of the top 100 billionaires listed in the report.
Meanwhile, Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of the wealth-tech platform Zerodha, and Apoorva Mehta, CEO and co-founder of Instacart, an American grocery-delivery, and pick-up service, at the age of 34 years, emerged as the youngest Indian billionaires on the list.
Another report by Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse published last week said India has over 100 billion-dollar companies, which are collectively valued at over USD 240 billion.
These unicorns, comprising of startups and (unlisted) older firms, are spread across industries, beyond technology and tech-enabled sectors as well, like pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods, Credit Suisse India equity strategist Neelkanth Mishra told local media. He added that “two-thirds of these 100 unicorns came into being after 2005 and added that among the listed companies’ universe, there are 336 scrips commanding a market capitalization of over USD 1 billion.”
A richer world
Globally, there were 607 people who made it to Hurun’s billionaire list, bringing the total number of ultra-rich to 3,228. The world’s billionaires now have a combined wealth of USD 14 trillion, more than the GDP of China in 2020.
“Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, this year has seen the biggest wealth increase of the last decade,” Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said. “A stock markets boom, driven partly by quantitative easing, and flurry of new listings have minted eight new dollar billionaires a week for the past year.”
“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year, much more than perhaps could have been expected for a year so badly disrupted by Covid-19. The speed of wealth creation is nothing short of staggering.”
World’s top three richest persons—Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, and Colin Huang, founder and CEO of Pinduoduo, added USD 50 billion each to their net worth.
Despite the trade war with the US, Hoogewerf said, China has added 256 billionaires, becoming the first country in the world to top 1,000 known dollar billionaires with 1,056 of them on the list. This is more than the combined total of the next three countries of the USA, India, and Germany, the report said.
“Asia has, for the first time in perhaps hundreds of years, more billionaires than the rest of the world combined. Wealth creation is moving to Asia,” said Hoogewerf. “We are currently right in the heart of a new industrial revolution, with the ABCDEs—that is AI, blockchain, cloud, data, and e-commerce—creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and leading to a concentration of wealth and economic power on a scale never seen before.”
However, the report claims there are more billionaires in the world than accounted for.
“The world today has probably 7,500 dollar billionaires, up 1,000 on last year, assuming that for everyone we found, we have probably missed at least one if not more, particularly from the Gulf states,” it said.