A transformed countryside
Perhaps the renaissance of the north is best reflected in the spectacular growth of the Dainik Jagran newspaper on the back of increased literacy levels.
The Gupta brothers, based in Kanpur - once known as the Manchester of the East for its colonial-era textile industry - publish 37 editions of their newspaper and 210 sub-editions to reach 55 million people, more than the population of South Africa.
With a presence in 11 states stretching from Kashmir in the Himalayas to West Bengal in the east, the low-key Guptas wield immense influence. A newspaper launched in 1942 as the Quit India movement to oust British rulers began, Dainik Jagran adapted early to foreign technology and finance.
Computers with Hindi-character keyboards came to the newspaper long before anyone in the vernacular press had thought about them. In 2010, private equity firm Blackstone Group ploughed 2.25 billion rupees ($36.3 million) into the holding company Jagran Prakashan Ltd, its first investment in a media company in the country.
(Read more: Is India's recovery already over?)
"It reflects the growth that we see sweeping north India. Gone are the days when three to four families shared one newspaper or people read the paper in the village square," said Sanjay Gupta, chief executive officer of Jagran Prakashan. "Now we are delivering the paper to individuals in villages. These villages are small towns in themselves now."
One member of the close-knit family that lives in a sprawling bungalow in Kanpur has just ended a term in the upper house of parliament as a representative of a regional party that governs Uttar Pradesh. Another previously represented the BJP, underlining the family's reach across the political spectrum.
It's the same rural prosperity that has transformed the Gyanchandani family's Rohit Surfactants into one of the largest makers of detergents. It began as a one-man army with patriarch Murli Dhar making the soap in his house and then doing the rounds of shops on his bicycle, urging them to give Ghari a try.
Murli Dhar still gets on the phone each day to pump up the sales force that has turned his firm into a $600 million conglomerate with interests from dairy products to footwear.
Like many of their Hindi-belt peers, the Gyanchandanis keep a low public profile, and requests for interviews went unanswered. Behind the scenes, however, these "kings of North India" are exerting greater influence on regional parties that play an outsized role in the country's ruling coalitions.
(Read more: Is the rupee 'out of control'?)
"The dynamics of coalition politics will allow these elites to pull more federal taxpayers' funds their way and bend policy in their direction," said Mukherjea.