Understanding the Indian Ultra High Net Worth Individual

Mr. Prasad Koparkar, Head of Industry and Customised Research at CRISIL, shares the key insights from their recently released report: "Top of the Pyramid”

The number of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNIs) in India, is set to more than triple over the next 5 years to 219,000, whilst their collective net worth is expected to increase fivefold, to Rs. 235 trillion by 2015-16. Given their wealth and increasing purchasing power, Indian UHNIs constitute an important segment for luxury brand marketers as well as investment advisors.

Despite such factors, no India-specific report on UHNIs, detailing their behaviour, attitudes, spending and investing patterns, is currently available in the public domain. The aim of Kotak Wealth-CRISIL’s ‘Top of the Pyramid’ report, is to fill this information gap, analysing patterns in wealth creation, spending, and investment of UHNIs, to give a holistic perspective on the segment.

To profile UHNIs and understand their spending and investment behaviour, we conducted interviews with senior managers of major global luxury brands, owners of art galleries and dealers of luxury products. 80 per cent of the respondents were from major metros in India: Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru. 20 per cent of respondents were from Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, interviewed between December 2010 and February 2011.

Most surprisingly we found…

that UHNIs are not a homogeneous group. We uncovered three broad profiles: Inheritors (the traditional wealthy); Self-made (first-time entrepreneurs); and Professionals (wealth earned through academic and professional merit). Despite their wealth, Indian UHNIs are still driven by a ‘value-for–money’ mindset, where family and friends have a notable influence on their spending decisions. Most UHNIs opt for the economy class when they travel and prefer Japanese car brands, again revealing a value-oriented mindset.

Although they come across as individualistic, Indian UHNIs are not impulsive spenders. Planned spending greatly surpasses impulse buys. Planned spends tend to be on big-ticket, family-oriented items, such as exclusive holiday packages, jewellery and household electronics.

Not so surprisingly we confirmed…

Traditionally, Jewellery has held great fascination for Indians and the UHNIs are no exception. Exclusive holiday packages are the top spend (planned and impulse), whereas products bought on impulse tend to be apparel and accessories, vintage spirits and liquor, writing instruments or items of art. Impulse spends typically comprise products for personal use, guided by exclusivity, features and brand popularity.

With regards to investments, UHNIs focus on assets they understand or are familiar with. Consistent with that, real estate accounts for around 37 per cent of their investments.

If readers remember only one thing it should be ….

That we identified three distinct types of Indian UHNIs, that each need to be communicated with and engaged in various ways.


- The traditional wealthy
- Focus on wealth preservation
- Buying branded, high-value products is a way of life – but are aware of emerging trends in luxury markets and are ready to experiment with newer brands
- Wealth is transferred for generations; will be passed on within the extended family.


- The first-time entrepreneurs
- Tend to follow spending patterns similar to that of the Inheritors
- Buying branded high-value products enables them to proclaim their wealthy status
- On the investment side they tend to depend upon own/informal sources than relying on professional wealth managers
- Wealth is transferred to the immediate family.


- Those who have earned wealth based on their academic and professional merit
- Passionate about their career; wealth is an outcome of success in career (salaries, bonuses, ESOPs, end-term benefits)
- Motto in spending is ‘Value for money’
- Believe that their children should merit wealth through good education.