Growth Market - India’s Expanding Wealth
Written by Gregg Henglein Illustration by Melanie Armstrong
With more than 50 billionaires – the most in Asia – India has taken a prominent seat at the table of global economy through a variety of means.?
? Late last year, the home of all things wealth – Forbes magazine – endeavoured to unearth the common traits among the world’s billionaires. ‘Broad answers of smarts, ambition and luck, weren’t good enough,’ it stated. And thus they searched through parental commonalities (for example, mathematical acumen), birthdays (most in the autumn), and odd facts (14% never attended or completed college) to seek a recipe for success.?
But riches are dishes of variety, and have a distinct international flavour.?
It shocks no-one that more than a third of the Forbes annual Top 100 billionaires list, last published in March 2009, hail from the USA. But one might be surprised to learn not only that two of the top 10 are from India, but that only the USA and Germany placed more in the top 100 than did India (7). For billionaires’ common ground, inherited bases and aggressive acquisitions top the list. Indian businesses have been gobbling up smaller counterparts as foreign outfits once did venturing into the country, which has contributed more new members to the Forbes Global 2000 than any other nation in the last four years. How??
Mukesh Ambani oversees Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable company in terms of market capitalisation. He is India’s wealthiest man, with a net worth of US$32 billion. His father, Dhirubhai Ambani, founded Reliance and built it into a petrochemicals giant before handing it down to Mukesh.? Ambani spearheaded the creation of the world’s largest petroleum refinery at Jamnagar, India, with a current capacity of 660,000 barrels per day integrated with power generation, petrochemicals, port and related infrastructure, and has also led the company’s rapid retail industry expansion throughout the country.?
“It was an obsession with me to beat the Taiwanese and the Koreans who dominated the polyester business in the ’70s,” Ambani says. “So, when the deregulation came [in 1992] we were ready.”
Lakshmi Mittal leads the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal. His financial base came from more than 20 years with the family steel business. Branching out on his own in 1994, snapping up shuttered steel mills throughout Eastern Europe, he grew his operations culminating with the hostile takeover of Arcelor in 2006.
“Always think outside the box and embrace opportunities that appear, wherever they might be,” said Mittal, whose net worth tops US$30 billion.
Technology has been a prime, fertile ground for the expansion of India’s economy. Leading that charge has been Bengaluru’s (formerly Bangalore) Azim Premji, chairman of software giant Wipro. Global reach isn’t always through expansion, but providing a universal service. Outsourcing drives Wipro, and has brought Premji an abundance of his US$14.9 billion net worth.?
“Global multinational companies [in the current economy] are not going to get their growth in their neighbourhood countries,” Premji observes. “They have to go to India, China, Africa, and Latin America to get mega-growth.”?
Another common trait – to any businessman, not just billionaires – is struggle. Look no further than Ramesh Chandra. Founder of the multibillion-dollar Indian real estate company Unitech, Chandra’s net worth approached US$10 billion in 2008. Early in 2009, a mountain of debt incurred during the real estate meltdown made investors shaky, driving his net worth down to US$600 million. By year’s end, buoyed by US$1.1 billion raised through a private placement and sale of assets, Unitech paid down its debt, launched Unihomes – a range of low-cost apartments – and saw its share price more than double. Chandra’s again a billionaire, valued at nearly US$2 billion.
The same aggressiveness that catapulted Chandra to success in the first place is what spurred his rebound. “Our aim is to dominate every new market that we are getting into,” Chandra said of Unitech. And that position is unwavering.?
Wind turbine guru Tulsi Tanti will be first to say that weathering the storms is essential. His family last year cashed in 8% of its stake in their Suzlon Energy, the world’s third largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Tanti’s wealth was battered by stock collapses brought on by a US$2.8 billion debt load and malfunctioning parts shipped to the USA last year. But Tanti lent the US$300 million garnered from the aforementioned cash-out for the acquisition of German wind-power company Repower, which pleased investors and analysts alike, and lifted Tanti’s net worth back to US$1.7 billion.?
Perseverance and understanding the circumstance is vital to emerging from any down period, Tanti knows. “The reason [for the struggle] is simple: it’s a financial crisis, and project financing is constrained. But there’s no dearth of demand,” he said late last year. “The major markets are in developed countries, which are now reviving. So I am expecting that in the next three to six months, the industry will be back in full flourish.”?
Learning from the past to improve in the future – this is perhaps the clearest path to success. India’s billionaires say so.?
Rich in? Spirit?
He’s considered by many the world’s wealthiest man. So why does Ratan Naval Tata, owner of TATA Group, not rank as a billionaire??
TATA Group’s 96 companies are held by its main company TATA Sons. Ratan, however, is not the main owner of this company. Rather, ownership resides with various charitable organisations set up and operated by the TATA Group conglomerate.
If the 65% of TATA Group held by those organisations were to be listed under Ratan Tata’s ledger, his net worth would top US$70 billion – making him the world’s richest man.