The Billionaires of India

“Until roughly the year 2000, becoming a billionaire was something that everybody saw as a good thing in India. They saw it as a coming of age,” he explains, as we sit in his home in a fancy neighbourhood of New Delhi. “Now being wealthy has been given a bad name.”

The generation that rose in the period immediately after India’s reforms in the early 1990s amassed fortunes in areas such as information technology and outsourcing, he contends. However, recent times have seen a more troubling economic trend. “In the last decade, almost all of the billionaires created in India have been created because of the proximity to politics,” he says. “They have been created in specific areas where government policy determines whether you make a billion or you don’t, which includes land, real estate, infrastructure, and natural resources.”

The Financial Times examined some of India’s newest richest people (men), and found that as India’s economy rapidly grew in the last decade, the wealth found a way to corrupt people (surprise!). Not everyone is so bad: The country has its own version of Warren Buffet in the guise of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, a financier who made a bundle spotting undervalued companies, and who recently promised to donate at least a quarter of his fortune to charity. Interestingly enough, the two words you’ll find missing from the piece are the words “poverty” and “poor.” The only time the word “slums” appears is in the context of where India’s richest man has decided to build his mansion—the $500 million home is located in a city where half of the residents live in slums.

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