New Delhi: Two hundred super-rich people in India had assets worth $500 million or more in 2017, an increase of 18% from 170 in the previous year, according to property consultant Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2018.
What’s more, the number of super-rich in this category, called demi-billionaires by Knight Frank, are projected to surge. In the five years through 2017, the number of Indians with wealth of $500 million or more grew by 43%. In the next five years, Knight Frank estimates it will grow by 70%.
Nor are their slightly poorer cousins doing badly. In 2017, there were 2,920 individuals with wealth of $50 million or more, known as the ultra-wealthy in the Knight Frank lexicon. By 2022, the consultant believes there will be 4,980 Indians in this category. The forecast for 2017-22 is that the growth in the number of ultra-wealthy people in Asia will be mainly from three countries—a rise of 104% in China, 84% in the Philippines and 71% in India. As Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping reportedly said a generation ago, ‘To get rich is glorious’.
As for the mere multi-millionaires, with wealth at $5 million or more, India had 47,720 of them last year. Their number has risen 56% in the last five years and will rise by 71% in the next five years.
For perspective, the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook had estimated average wealth per adult in India at $5,976 in 2017. The median wealth per adult Indian was estimated at $1,295. The report had said the richest 5% of the Indian population owned 64.1% of the country’s wealth.
India’s rich are growing their wealth much faster than the global average. The number of multi-millionaires, for example, was up 20% globally in the last five years—for India, the increase was 56%. In 2016-17 alone, they increased by 21%.
That is not surprising. A Knight Frank presentation in the wealth report points out that 95% of Indians with net assets of $50 million or more increased their exposure to equities in 2017. With the equity market shooting up last year, the rise in the number of multi-millionaires is nothing to be wondered at. The strength of the rupee against the dollar was another factor boosting wealth in dollar terms.
Other assets in which Indians increased their exposure by more than the global average were private equity, alternative investments and bonds. In property and gold, the number increasing their exposure was much less than the global average (see chart).
The shift from physical assets to financial assets is part of the overall trend among Indian households. The Reserve Bank of India’s annual report had pointed out that the gross financial savings of households increased from 10.9% of gross national disposable income (GNDI) in 2015-16 to 11.8% of GNDI in 2016-17. Investments in shares and debentures went up from 0.3% of GNDI in 2015-16 to 1.2% in 2016-17. Bank deposits, at 7.3% of GNDI, continued to be the financial saving instrument of choice among the masses.
The Knight Frank report cites Vincent White, managing director at the Wealth-X Institute, as saying: “We have been experiencing ‘Goldilocks’ economic conditions: not too hot, and not too cold. These make it easier to do business, provide a good environment to raise capital and, above all, encourage entrepreneurialism—the key to wealth creation." But the report also strikes a note of caution: “Longer term, though, the picture is less clear, with the IMF and other commentators, including this report’s keynote interviewee, the financial historian Niall Ferguson, predicting headwinds for global economic growth in the not-too-distant future."