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Forbes Lists 40 Wealthiest Indian Business People


Forbes Magazine has issued an inaugural list of India's 40 wealthiest business people. Two high-growth industries, technology and pharmaceuticals, have created many of the country's largest fortunes.

Forbes says nearly half of the mega-wealthy on its list started entirely from scratch. Working from home garages, or starting with loans as small as $100, these people carved out fortunes of at least $300 million.

Dilip Cherian, a former business editor and now head of the publicity firm Perfect Relations, says the liberalization of India's protected economy in 1991 dramatically changed a country dominated by family businesses and a socialist mindset - and created a new generation of corporate tycoons. "There was a structural change in the mindset of the younger generation, saying we will go out, search for new areas, and we are as good as anybody else. In the new environment you are allowing the unleashing of new forces of growth," he said.

Eleven of India's 40 richest made it big in the high-profile technology sector, and nine are from India's thriving pharmaceuticals industry. The rest come from a range of industries - manufacturing, petrochemicals telecommunications, entertainment.

The group ranges from Azim Premji, with a $10 billion net worth based largely on his highly successful IT company called Wipro, to Desh Bandhu Gupta, a former teacher who bought the tiny vitamin company Lupin and turned it into a leading pharmaceuticals firm. Forbes lists his worth at $305 million.

The list of 40 wealthiest includes one woman - Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who has established one of India's most successful biotechnology companies, Biocon.

Forty percent of the richest live in Bombay, others in emerging economic centers such as Bangalore and New Delhi.

Industry watchers say India's rapidly expanding economy is creating a rising tide of prosperity. The number of dollar millionaires in India is still far smaller than those in China, but according to Merrill Lynch, 11,000 Indians reached that benchmark in 2003.

Mr. Cherian says many more successful entrepreneurs will emerge in India, one of the world's fastest growing economies, and perhaps even more rapidly than in the recent past. "So change is in the air, and the kind of change involves a compression of the time frame that we are used to seeing in the past. Having said that, the essential story to watch is to see whether these people who have become these enormously rich and influential tycoons have the ability to stay the course, and survive," he says.

India is also home to nearly one-quarter of the world's poorest people: nearly 300 million in the country live on less than $1 a day.

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