The seeds of greatness can generally be spotted early. That’s true of people, of course, but equally valid for companies. Time after time, we have seen the spark of something in a startup, which then goes on to dominate the world of business. Remember Apple back in the 1980s? Or Microsoft even earlier? Or, more recently, Facebook and Twitter?

From a business chronicler’s perspective, the story of how these companies grew from garages and single rooms to achieve global giant status is fascinating. From an investor’s point of view, it’s even more delightful to stumble upon these companies at an early stage. These are the investments that can create incredible wealth; the potential multibaggers.

These are also the companies that keep the wheels of the economy moving. They are not the massive conglomerates that seem to define India Inc. in the media or public consciousness. In most cases, they have neither the comfort of scale, nor iconic brands to ride on. They’re exposed to a higher degree of vulnerability of economic cycles and, more often than not, fall prey to hubris surrounding an emerging economy.

But these are also the companies that account for a good chunk of India’s industry; often, these are the companies that keep the larger, Fortune India 500 companies in the game by contracting out services or providing components.

More important, companies on the BSE mid-cap and small-cap indices had a combined market capitalisation of Rs 31,96,300 crore. On a CAGR basis, the total market capitalisation of the top 50 wealth creators within the Fortune India Next 500 grew by 55.4% and 31.2% over three and five years ended March 2015, respectively. So yes, they are titans in their own right, and deserve their place in the sun; hence, the Fortune India Next 500.

Some of the companies on this list have a good chance of breaking into the larger revenue club. Others are content being where they are, preferring to stick to their core business philosophy rather than abandon it to chase growth.

Case in point, Gharda Chemicals. With India’s ace chemist, Keki N. Gharda, at the helm, and ranked 48 on the Next 500, the company could very well break into the Fortune India 500. But that’s not Gharda’s dream for his company (page 120). What he wants is customers who understand the technical finesse of his products. Which is a niche segment of the market.

There are other companies with dreams of leaping into the big time (Solar Industries, for instance, on page 112), but while growth is definitely a priority, it’s not what defines this group.

So what does? These are largely mid-cap companies; 434 of the Next 500 are privately held, and together they account for 86% of the total revenue; and the bias is towards manufacturing rather than services. In fact, the Next 500’s tilt towards manufacturing is much higher than last year’s Fortune India 500.

The services sector accounts for a mere 17.4% of revenue, which comes from 88 companies. Manufacturing, meanwhile sends 400 companies to the list, accounting for 80.3% of the total revenue. Among sectors, basic materials, food and agri products, pharma, and information technology are leaders, while the laggards include capital goods and iron and steel.

Ownership and holding patterns in the Fortune India Next 500 are also interesting. The 434 private companies on the list, which account for 86% of the total revenue, have seen 6.3% growth, while the 31 government-owned companies with 6.9% share have seen a 7.7% decline. There are 35 foreign-owned companies on the list (a 7.1% share, and 7.9% growth).

The revenue growth of 5.3% for the Next 500 is commendable when compared to the 9.5% growth of Fortune India 500 companies, where the major revenue contributors operate in oligopolistic situations, such as top-line heavy oil refiners, or have legacy and capitalistic-cum-technological advantages, such as state-owned banks. (There is no public sector bank on the Next 500.)

There’s good news for shareholders too; dividend payments increased by an average of 34.7% across the Next 500. While the dividend outgo of government-owned companies (with over 12% share of the total equity dividend paid) grew by a mere 4%, private companies paid 7.6% more.

The whopping growth came from foreign companies, which account for 29.9% of the list. The dividend payout growth here was a huge 245.3%. One big player contributing to this was Pfizer (rank 180), which reported an 11 times higher dividend outgo at Rs 1,074.3 crore, compared to Rs 97 crore the year before.

Page Industries, V-Guard Industries, and Astral Poly Technik are among the classic wealth creators, profiled earlier in Fortune India.