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AUGUST 11 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 31 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Spreading the Wealth
India's old and new economies have sired billionaires and millionaires galore — some of them based at home, others living overseas, some international figures and others (so far) not well known outside the country. Here is a selection of some of the principal ones, based on publicly available information. There are many more whose wealth is privately held and not easily calculated.

ALSO:
Clicking to Success: High-tech plus economic reforms equal an Indian business boom

Azim Hashim Premji, 54
Chairman of Wipro Group, mostly information technology.
Estimated net worth: $9.4 billion. Wipro was a vegetable-oil business when Premji took it over in the 1970s. He has built it into one of India's most formidable IT giants, providing software, hardware and software services around the world. Premji is now based in Bangalore. His worth is calculated according to the price of Wipro stock, of which he owns 75%. At one time, before the decline in the price of IT shares, his wealth was put at $35 billion.

Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, 45
Founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks, maker of optical networking software and hardware. Est. net worth: $4 billion. Deshpande, who was born and initially educated in India, went to the U.S. in the 1980s to study. He founded Cascade Communications, which he sold for $3.7 billion in 1998. Sycamore Networks markets optical networking products that enable network service providers to upgrade their existing fiber-optic networks to offer more bandwidth. Deshpande is based in Massachusetts.

Lakshmi NiWas Mittal, 50
Chief of Ispat International, steel production. Est. net worth: $1.9 billion.
London-based Mittal heads one of the world's biggest steel corporations. After starting in India, where his father owned a steel mill, he purchased his first plant, in Indonesia, in 1971. The company now owns mills across the world and has an annual production of about 20 million tons a year.

Shiv Nadar, 53
Chief of HCL Group, an IT company. Est. net worth: $1.2 billion. Nadar was an engineer when, in the 1970s, he and friends started HCL to manufacture office equipment. In the 1980s, it moved up to computers. The company has subsidiaries in Singapore and the U.S. HCL also provides software and networking solutions.

Dhirubhai Ambani, 66
Chairman of Reliance Group. Producer of textiles and petrochemicals. Est. net worth: $1.2 billion. A self-made man, Ambani built a textile business into a huge petrochemicals giant in 30 years of sheer effort. Reliance is the largest company in the private sector by turnover and number of employees. It is backed by millions of small-time investors. A movement in its stock price generally affects the entire market.

Kumar Mangalam Birla, 31
Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, diversified interests. Est. net worth: $1.1 billion.
The young Birla was thrust into the leadership of this family-owned conglomerate when his father died three years ago. Since then he has begun a modernization program of the venerable company, which has a vast range of manufacturing interests, some of them in Southeast Asia. They include textiles, chemicals, cement, iron and motor vehicles.

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