Yet, the most important thing about India's billionairesses is how lightly they wear their billions. Some protest, genuinely puzzled: "But I'm not on that list!" Yet others are downright uncomfortable with the B-word, as compared to less wealthy men who unabashedly flaunt and upgrade their possessions. In contrast to so many rich Indian men who nurse their love for the good life like a good old glass of w and s, these extraordinary women are refreshingly down-to-earth and clearly beyond baubles.
"After a point," says Shobhana Bhartia, vice-chairperson and editorial director, HT Media Ltd, "wealth doesn't make a difference to your personal lifestyle." I look hard for diamonds on her person, but fail to spot any. Of course, I've caught her on a bad day; Shobhana is suffering from a viral attack and is extremely busy with the Leadership Summit beginning the next day. Soft-voiced and slender, red-nosed with a cold, she looks quite vulnerable—definitely not like someone who reigns over a Rs 700-crore media empire, takes home an annual net salary of Rs 42 lakh and, as a scion of the K.K. Birla empire, has other kinds of paper worth crores in her lockers.