The release of richest people’s lists is usually a signal for much back-slapping and triumphalism in the corporate world and its hangers on in the media. It is seen as some kind of symptom that India is doing well, people are getting wealthier, achhe din (good days) are here, although such lists are only for a 100 people (as in the case of the Forbes India list) or perhaps more (as in IIFL Hurun list), in a country of 1.3 billion people.
But these lists also reveal another side of the super wealthy corporates of the country. A comparison between the Forbes India richest people’s lists of 2014 and 2019 reveals which of the corporate honchos have flourished under Narendra Modi’s rule and which have not done so well.
Before going into the individuals, it should be noted that the total wealth of the top 100 richest Indian corporate heads increased from about Rs.25 lakh crore to over Rs.32 lakh crore between 2014 and 2019. That’s a 31% increase. The wealth of just these 100 people in 2019 is about 6% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product). This is a measure of the high degree of inequality in the country that just 100 people own so much wealth while the vast bulk of India’s people have only a very small fraction of it.
Coming now to the rather curious case of individual growth among corporates, it turns out that the richest person in India, Mukesh Ambani, has more than doubled his wealth. It has increased by 118%, to be precise, from Rs.1.68 lakh crore to Rs.3.65 lakh crore between 2014 and 2019.
In Gautam Adani’s case, the rise has been better. His wealth zoomed up by 121% from Rs.50.4 thousand crore in 2014 to a breath-taking Rs.1.1 lakh crore in 2019. He climbed up from the 11th place in the 2014 rankings to becoming the second richest man in India in 2019.