Trillion Dollar Zeitgeist: The World's 10 Richest Industries

During the last year - as always - billions upon billions of dollars have been spent in various areas such as military spending, the war on drugs, healthcare... That's just to name a few. But exactly how much money is circulating in the world today, and which big industries claim most of the world's wealth? The  'Information is Beautiful' have pulled statsistics from all over the world - from scientific studies, to government reports, to World Bank figures - to compile their annual “Billion Dollar-o-Gram”. The results, depicting the richest industries in the world today, are both surprising and a bit intimidating.

For some time now, the more jaded and cynical among us have been convinced that it isn’t the politicians running the world, but in fact the corporate industries are the ones who line the pockets of the government. Big money industries are pulling the strings, these cynics might claim, to ensure favourable bills are passed or denied. While we're not making that political point here, when you read how much money each industry is making it will almost certainly give you food for thought - especially if you’re a conspiracy theorist.

It's no surprise that some of the richest industries in 2013 are all based on at least one asset that we use in our lives every day.  From computers to entertainment, to oil, to shopping, there isn’t an industry on this list that isn't universally applicable.  The biggest industries in the world - and the ones that make the most money - are the industries that we give our hard-earned money to out of necessity, desire, or a nice mix of the two.

We at TheRichest are fascinated by money, not just for its material value but for the stories behind it - for what it so often represents. And indeed, the richest industries in the world that feature on our list tend to also be the most valuable, and that’s not from a monetary standpoint.  They're value lies in the fact that they're needed to help society advance and function smoothly, and to connect us all with people around the world from the comfort of our own home. We've broken down the billion-dollar-0-gram to bring you information on ten of the biggest, wealthiest industries in the world which we believe, together, give a snapshot of the nature of the modern human race.

11 BP - $132 Billion

According to Financial Times Global 500, BP (formerly known as British Petroleum) earned about $132 billion in their 2012-2013 year.  This multinational oil and gas company made headlines in 2010 with the famous oil spill, now famously called the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, which is now considered to be one of the worst oil disasters in history.  In the same year, BP had to deal with the Texas City Chemical Leak that resulted in 530,000 pounds of chemicals being released into the air in Texas City.  Regardless of the setbacks and settlements, BP is still going strong and our reliance on oil - sadly, however immorally obtained - is still enormous. Until we become a society of sustainable, renewable energy users, the oil industry is likely to hold strong as one of the wealthiest industries in the world. With hundred of billions of dollars behind it, we can see why oil magnates might want to refute the phenomenon of global warming. We're guessing they've been avoiding those heart-wrenching polar bear documentaries...

10 EBay - $175 Billion

If you want to engage in online bidding and get a unique deal on expensive consumer products from your fellow man, eBay is the place to be.  Now one of the top 500 most valuable companies in the world, 20 years ago it eBay didn't even exist. It was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidayer, and has grown staggeringly in that time to become the leading online shopping forum where vendors can list their products, gain exposure and make big money.  EBay has become one of the largest websites for online bidding in the world, offering every possibility of category including electronics, clothing, jewellery, toys, books, and more. As of 2013, this company was valued at a mind-boggling $175 billion. With a worldwide selling frenzy occuring on eBay daily, the company has now begun to enforce policies such as no reselling Disney products or any haunted items or equipment for spells - so you’ll need to find your “Little Mermaid ghost in a jar” somewhere else.

9 Google - $187 Billion

15 years ago, if we told you to 'google' something you would have been completely confounded. In the last decade, though, Google has almost taken over the digital world and has become a feature of every internet user's daily life. The multinational corporation has given the world some of our most useful online products such as an innovative search engine, email services, website-traffic tracker, translation services, and digitalised world maps.  Since its founding in 1998, Google generates most of their profits from AdWords and has become one of the main companies used by billions around the world - not only for their online experience, but also to help guide them through everyday life. Entering 2013, Google's market value was over $187 billion; as a company so deeply entrenched in our digital infrastructure, it seems this company's wealth can only keep growing.

8 Microsoft - $224 Billion

When Bill Gates founded the Microsoft Corporation in 1975, we wonder if he could have ever foreseen just how successful the computer software company would become. Microsoft continues to create innovative computer products as well as supplemental software to complement their products.  There's a running joke that Apple and Microsoft are constantly going head-to-head with each other, which is most likely based on just plain competitive marketing in order to gain more customers with the most innovative product.  But in this case Microsoft ranked a bit below their playground rival, valued at just under $224 billion going into 2013.

7 Walmart - $228 Billion

Walmart has become the second largest public corporation, according to Fortune Global 500, as well as one of the largest private employers in the world. Along with Walmart’s great successes and capital gain, there has been much controversy surrounding this retail giant in 2013.  The most notable of these controversies was an employee food drive that went public, which further sparked debate of whether the company was paying their employees enough to financially survive and afford to buy food for their families.  Regardless of that, Walmart’s low prices continue to attract customers from a variety of incomes and backgrounds - so much so that, despite the fact they don't even retail internationally, Walmart has recently been valued at $228 billion.

6 Worldwide TV Industry - $364 Billion

We’re not talking Hollywood or celebrities here; we're talking about the television industry and market as a whole.  In the last few years, there have been remarkable breakthroughs in the world of television.  Television sets are getting wider and skinnier, providing a movie-theater-like experience at home.  From LCD to Plasma - and now to 3-D televisions - watching your favourite program is more realistic than ever. And you don't have to wait around for your favourite 'soapie' to come on. Long gone are the days of setting a VCR to record your favourite show (well, it wasn't that long ago actually...) as programming is now almost entirely on-demand. Advertising brings in huge revenue to this industry, along with paid subscriptions for consumers who want the widest possible choice. Believe it or not, the TV industry is billions of dollars richer than the movie industry. Going into 2013, the film industry ticket sales were at an all-time high of $10.8 billion. Small-fry compared to the $364 billion total valuation of the television industry.

5 Apple - $500 Billion


iPhones, iPads, iPods, iTunes, iCloud…there’s so much “i” in our world today, and we immediately think of Apple. When Chris Martin and Gwenyth Paltrow named their baby 'Apple' in 2004, we're betting they couldn't possibly have seen the huge, corporate associations that name would become! In a relatively short time, this technology giant has become a driving force in the global market. Lines wrap around Apple Stores worldwide whenever there are new products to be released. With the release of latest iPhone 5S, there was a bit of controversy with the phone’s fingerprint scanner that sent conspiracy theorists on a rampage.  Regardless of paranoia, the company continues to thrive and grow with numerous innovations in technology to integrate more of the Apple web into our lives. Apple users seem universally convinced that the products help them live life with ease; and enough people have been converted to the Apple cause that the company has been valued at an inconceivable $500 billion.

4 Global Pharma Market - $950 Billion

The global market from prescription drugs has boomed tremendously in the last twenty years and is expected to reach a valuation of $1.2 trillion by 2016.  What does this mean for us?  It means, essentially, that more and more people will be depending on pharmaceuticals to take care of their health concerns. And for the optimistic among us, it means we'll have more options for staying healthy. The United States is responsible for a significant portion of this industry and remains the leading nation in the pharmacy industry.  Drug prescriptions in the United States take in about $307 billion of the overall total.  There will be always people who need medication of some sort and treatment for serious illnesses, which gives this industry a comfy financial cushion and a long-term sustainability.

3 OPEC Revenue - $1027 Billion

Oil featured with BP earlier on our list, and here it is again at number two. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries earned over $982 billion in net oil export in 2012, and the number jumped significantly in 2013.  There is no doubt that the world depends on oil not only for automobiles, but for machinery, heating, and more.  Wars have been started over oil, and fortunes are made with the discovery of oil.  It should be no surprise that the oil industry is the most well-known, profitable - and arguably notorious -market in the world.  Countries depend on oil to function, and costs continue to rise every year with rumours that the oil is beginning to run out.  Once that time comes, it’s difficult to predict how society will function. But one things for certain; as long as we still need oil, this industry will remain one of the most lucrative on earth.

2 Alcohol Industry - $1161 Billion

Based on the numbers in this industry, there is no doubt that there are billions of people who enjoy a nice boozy drink.  Of this larger valuation of the industry at over $1000 billion, beer actually makes up for $523 million of the total - almost half of the overall value of the alcohol industry.  Of course we’re not just talking cheap beer; there is a significant market for speciality beers that vary from seasonal beers, to a variety of tastes to satisfy even the daintiest palette.  Despite growing concerns of alcohol dependency and the existence of programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, this is one the oldest industries and bets are it will continue to stay stable at the top of our list. It looks like oil can come and go, entertainment preferences may change, but whatever the latest boom or crisis - we'll always enjoy unwinding with a beer.


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