Richest Indian and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani witnessed his net worth soar to $50 billion in 2019, earning him the 13th position on the latest Forbes World's Billionaire list. Last year, Ambani was placed at 19th rank, with total wealth estimated at $40.1 billion.
"Ambani chairs and runs $60 billion (revenue) oil and gas giant Reliance Industries, among India's most valuable companies," Forbes said. "In 2016, Reliance sparked a price war in India's hyper-competitive telecom market with the launch of 4G phone service Jio."
The recent surge in Ambani's wealth has been primarily driven by the successful launch of Jio and the scaling up of other consumer-centric businesses such as Reliance Retail. Simultaneously, Reliance has also ramped up operations of its flagship petrochemicals and refining segments and is changing the product mix towards high-margin polymer derivatives from low-margin fossil fuels.
Ambani, 61, holds a majority stake in the Mumbai-based conglomerate and his fortune is closely tied to the value of the company's shares. Shares of Reliance Industries today closed at 1,264.80 rupees on the National Stock Exchange, just 5% short of its all-time high of 1,329 rupees, reached on Aug 29 last year. With the imminent rollout of JioGigaFiber, the company's direct-to-home broadband service, and a hybrid offline-to-online retail platform on the horizon, the stock could touch new highs.
Successful execution of the two new businesses could push Reliance's stock price into a never-seen-before territory and will bring Ambani within a striking distance of the global top-3. A 100% rally in Reliance's stock and a substantial decline in Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wealth, following the divorce with wife MacKenzie, could make Ambani the richest person in the world. Incidentally, in 2007, riding on a bull run in the Indian stock market, Ambani had held the title of 'The Richest Person in the World' for a brief period of time.
Currently, Jeff Bezos, 55, leads the global billionaire's group with an estimated net worth of $131 billion, followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and ace investor and Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett in the top 3. While Gates, 63, saw his wealth grow to $96.5 billion, up from $90 billion last year, Buffett, 88, witnessed a decline of $1.5 billion in his fortune to $82.5 billion, Forbes said. Rounding off the top 5 were Bernard Arnault, CEO of French luxury good company, LVMH, and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. A notable slip on the list was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who lost $9 billion in the past year and fell three spots to the eighth position. The fall in Zuckerberg's fortune helped Zara and Inditex founder Amancio Ortega of Spain and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison edge past him.
Among the Indian billionaires, Ambani is followed by Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, ranked 36th, with a net worth of $22.6 billion. The list of 106 billionaires from India includes IT major HCL's co-founder Shiv Nadar, ranked 82nd, ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal at the 91st rank, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Birla (122), Adani Group founder Gautam Adani (167), Bharti Airtel head Sunil Mittal (244) and co-founder of consumer goods giant Patanjali Ayurveda Acharya Balkrishna (365), among others.