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Number of Super Rich in India Doubled Last Year

ArcelorMittal CEO Lakshmi Mittal (L) speaks at an annual results conference beside Aditya Mittal (R), ArcelorMittal Chief Financial Officer at the ArcelorMittal headquarters in Luxembourg, 10 Feb 2010

In India, the number of super rich people doubled last year, largely due to a rebound in the economy. But India is also home to millions of poor people.

Forbes magazine's latest compilation of the world's super rich for 2009 includes 49 billionaires from India, up from 24 in the previous year. They have a combined net worth of over $222 billion.

Two of the Indian billionaires are among the five richest men in the world. The world's fourth richest man, and also Asia's richest billionaire, is Mukesh Ambani. His Reliance Industries is the country's largest firm, with a net worth of $29 billion. Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, based in London, comes next with a net worth of $28.7 billion.

Some of these billionaires have made their fortunes in emerging industries such as information technology and retail, while others have been successful in such sectors as steel, real estate and pharmaceuticals.

The number of billionaires grew last year after declining in 2008 due to India's rapid emergence from the global financial crisis. The revival of capital markets, which doubled in value in the last year after being battered by the economic crisis, also helped increase the wealth of some individuals.

Much of the wealth in India was created during a five year period when the economy grew by nearly nine percent, until the slowdown in 2008.

"Rising tide raises all boats," says Anjan Roy, an economist with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "The Indian economy is growing, and naturally those who are based here are doing fine, look at the corporate results, corporate operations are expanding, so obviously more people are getting more money."

India is now home to the most number of billionaires in the world after the United States, China, Russia and Germany.

However, the growing individual wealth in India is a stark contrast to the high levels of poverty that still prevail. According to the World Bank, nearly one-third of the world's poor are in India, with nearly half the country's over one billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.

The government says its greatest challenge is to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy trickle down to the poorer sections.