Profile: The ten richest men in India

India’s 40 wealthiest people are together worth a staggering $106bn, leaving their Chinese equivalents looking like paupers in comparison. Here are the top ten…

1. Lakshmi Mittal, 55
Company: Mittal Steel
Net worth: $20bn

Named after the Hindu deity of fortune and prosperity, the steel tycoon is “quintessentially Indian”, despite having lived in Britain since the 1970s, says The South China Morning Post. Born in a remote village, he got his start when his family moved to Calcutta and opened a small steel mill. Within 20 years, Ispat International was hailed as “the best steel firm on the planet”. The 2004 merger with rival International Steel Group also made it the largest. Today, Mittal Steel, of which he owns 87.4%, continues to expand, but ironically, it does no business in India. It’s “one of my biggest disappointments”, says Mittal.

2. Azim Premji, 60
Company: Wipro Technologies
Net worth: $11bn

“The father of the Indian outsourcing phenomenon”, Premji got his major break in 1978 when IBM pulled out of India, says The Independent. Premji had inherited Wipro, then a company selling cooking fat, on his father’s death in 1966 and decided to move into the nascent computing business. He still owns 82% of the New York-listed company: it has annual revenues of £1bn, while clients include Nokia, Microsoft and Prudential. Still, this tycoon belongs to the old-banger school of billionaires: his ancient Ford Escort is, he says, “a lucky car”.

3. Mukesh Ambani, 48
Company: Reliance Industries
Net worth: $7bn

News that a feud between the warring Ambani brothers had been resolved sent Indian stocks to new highs last summer, says The Economist. The brothers are heirs to the $22.5bn Reliance Group built up from a simple textile-trading business by their former school-master father – and they had been at daggers since his death in 2002. Luckily their mother was finally able to broker a truce (after taking advice from religious astrologers), says Newsweek, and in the ensuing demerger, Mukesh, “a family man and meticulous planner”, kept the group’s petrochemicals flagship, Reliance Industries, and Indian Petrochemicals Corp.

4. Anil Ambani, 46
Company: Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprises
Net worth: $5.5bn

At the height of the feud (see story above), Anil Ambani achieved notoriety for alleging that his brother had broken corporate governance regulations, says BusinessWeek. He now seems “almost his usual self – brash, natty and cheerful”. The Wharton graduate, married to a Bollywood actress, hasn’t done too badly from the split, says the FT: his new group controls Reliance’s telecoms and finance firms.

5. Kushal Pal Singh, 74
Company: Delhi Land & Finance
Net worth: $5bn

The former army officer joined his father-in-law’s firm in 1971 and transformed it into India’s biggest real-estate developer. His big breakthrough, says The Times of India, was transforming a barren expanse of land outside Delhi into Guargaon: “the most competitive city-suburb in India”. The development even spawned a new word: Guppie – a Guargaon yuppie.

6. Sunil Mittal: Age 48
Company: Bharti Group
Net worth $4.9bn

India’s “most ambitious telecom entrepreneur” describes himself as “the product of economic reform”, says BusinessWeek. He started a bicycle-parts business at a precociously early age before moving into telephony in the 1980s. In the past ten years, Mittal has grabbed 22% of India’s mobile-phone market. Recent attempts to diversify have proved less successful, says the FT. Mittal had hoped to overhaul India’s food chain and make it a leading exporter. “This is work in progress,” he says.

7. Kumar Mangalam Birla, 38
Company: Aditya Birla Group
Net worth: $4.4bn

The head of the close-knit Birla clan inherited control of the commodities and electronics powerhouse on the death of his father in 1995. Many feared the LSE graduate wouldn’t be up to the job, says BusinessWeek. He has proved them wrong, but his preference for privacy has recently been hit by an elderly cousin leaving a chunk of the empire to her accountant, says The Hindu. Birla has vowed to win it back. The case continues. 

8. Tulsi Tanti, 47
Company: Suzlon Energy
Net worth: $3.7bn

The textile producer moved into wind energy ten years ago, says Forbes. In October, he listed Suzlon Energy, in which he and his siblings own 70%. He is now expanding into the US and China.

9. Pallonji Mistry, 76
Company: multiple interests
Net worth: $3.3bn

Often described as the “king-maker of Corporate India”, the secretive construction magnate is the biggest shareholder in Tata Sons, a holding company with a big stake in India’s largest software company, Tata Consultancy Services, says The Australian.

10. Anurag Dikshit, 34
Company: PartyGaming
Net worth: $3.1bn

The software brain behind PartyGaming is a “non-gambling, vegetarian Hindu”, says the FT. Before his 1988 chance meeting with co-founder Ruth Parasol, he’d honed his programming skills in the US at AT&T and Lucent. A workaholic based in Gibraltar, he keeps a low profile.