It's not only the aam admi who's hard up, India's richest are getting poorer too. The combined wealth of India's billionaire club has depleted nearly 20 per cent since last year owing to a number of factors - including rising inflation, falling stock prices and corruption scandals.
According to the India Rich List-2011, released by the Forbes magazine on Thursday, the collective net worth of the country's 100 wealthiest individuals stands at $ 241 billion, down from $ 300 billion in 2010.
This year's list of billionaires has 57 names, a dozen less than last year. The richest 10 are collectively worth $ 113.6 billion, down from $ 150 billion in 2010. Reliance Industries Group headMukesh Ambani, with a net worth of $ 22.6 billion, has taken the top spot for the fourth year in a row despite seeing a drop of $ 4.4 billion from last year.
The biggest loser among the billionaire tycoons is Mukesh's younger brotherAnil, now worth $ 7.4 billion less than last year.
For the first time since his 2004 debut in the top 10, he has slipped out of the elite club and is ranked at number 13 this year. Anil's net worth is estimated at $ 5.9 billion, down from $ 13.3 billion last year. Besides the falling value of his group companies, he was also hit by the 2G telecom scandal that landed three of his senior executives in jail.
Others ensnared in the 2G scandal include real estate magnate Ramesh Chandra, who lost more than half of his fortune after his son Sanjay was arrested in April and the Unitech shares tanked. He is among the rich-listers who lost their billionaire status in the past year. This year's biggest loser in percentage terms is power producer Lanco Infratech's L. Madhusudan Rao, whose net worth dropped 78 per cent.
Among the 15 who dropped out altogether of the top 100 are Vinod Goenka and Shahid Balwa, former billionaires who are now cooling their heels in jail for alleged involvement in the 2G scandal.
From the top, steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal remains at the second spot with a net worth of $ 19.2 billion, down 26 per cent from last year. Despite the recovery in steel demand, the shares of his flagship firm - ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steel-maker - plunged 40 per cent due to surging costs, the business magazine points out.
Infotech major Wipro's head Azim Premji is the third richest Indian with a net worth of $ 13 billion, 26 per cent lower than the $ 17.6 billion last year. Premji had last December donated to a trust $ 2 billion worth of shares to fund his education charity.
This year's rich list boasts of 14 new faces. The richest debutant is Ajay Kalsi, coming in at No. 38 with a net worth of $ 1.39 billion.
Kalsi is the founder and CEO of London-listed oil and gas outfit, Indus Gas, in which he has more than two-thirds stake.
The father-son duo of Kapil and Rahul Bhatia ( of travel group InterGlobe Enterprises) makes its debut at No. 51 with a net worth of $ 1.09 billion after budget carrier IndiGo became India's third largest and most profitable airline.
Also making the cut for the first time is V. G. Siddhartha, who is ranked 84 on the list with a net worth of $ 595 million. He founded and runs CafÃ© Coffee Day, the Indian equivalent to Starbucks.
The biggest percentage gainer is Hero Group patriarch Brijmohan Lall Munjal, ranked at No. 21 with $ 2.7 billion, who broke off his long-standing partnership with Japan's Honda Motors earlier this year.
Only 19 of the 85 who return to the rankings are better off. The most notable corporate in this context is Sun Pharmaceutical Industries' Dilip Shanghvi at No. 11. He is the biggest dollar gainer and worth $ 6.7 billion, up by $ 1.5 billion from last year.
Though the Indian economy is still growing by 7.7 per cent, the nation's richest 100 individuals have lost one-fifth of their total wealth. The loss has been due in part to a 10 per cent decline in the sensex and the falling rupee, the magazine points out. Substantial corruption allegations, coupled with a downturn in the global economy and spiralling input costs, have also affected the demand and company earnings as well as investor confidence on the stock markets.
Forbes-India editor Indrajit Gupta said, "Though it's been another tough year for the wealthiest Indian entrepreneurs on the 2011 India Rich List, the fact that there are 14 new entrants is a clear pointer to the exciting and diverse business opportunities in this part of the world." The magazine stated that the net worth of those on the list was based on share prices and exchange rates as on October 12 and the privately held companies were valued on the basis of their comparison with similar publicly traded firms. The net worth figures of individuals also includes family fortunes, it added.