Born on the 24th of January 1954; Anil Agarwal – the self-made billionaire, with a personal net worth of $2 Billion is the proud Founder and Chairman of Vedanta Resources.
Very few are aware that he, in actuality controls Vedanta indirectly through Volcan Investments, which is a holding company and has a 61.7% stake in the business.
From a trader to an entrepreneur, from riding a scooter in the late 1970s to flying across continents in his lavish private jet, and from copper to steel, aluminium, iron ore, zinc and power generation, Anil has come across a long way.
The story of his success is one-of-its-kinds and is as interesting as any Bollywood movie may look. He is one of the very few living men, who have literally started from scrap and reached to his stature, all by himself.
What has got him through this journey is some of the lessons which he had learnt at an early age completely believe, like:
- You don’t need a fancy MBA degree from a reputed institution to become a successful entrepreneur,
- Life is full of ‘ups and downs’ & those are the experiences that will make you better with every passing day,
- Mistakes are just stepping stones to the path of success, and
- Most importantly, those who learn from their mistakes never repeat them
Personally, this vegan man leads a very simple yet classy life with his wife Kiran and two children Agnivesh & Priya in their mansion in London. He loves to play badminton in his free time.
How did Anil begin his journey?
Anil was born and raised in Patna, where he completed his schooling at Miller High School. Unlike many, only studied till the age of 15, after which he quit and joined his father’s business of making aluminium conductors in 1972.
This stint of his continued that for the next four rough years and after which just like many small-town aspirants, Anil too left for the land of dreams – Mumbai at the age of 19, in search of career opportunities.
While searching for a place to stay, Anil came across the Oberoi Hotel in south Mumbai. The royal outlook of the Hotel impressed him so much that he decided to stay there for at least a day, if not more, but because he was uneducated and couldn’t utter a word in English, he was a lil scared to check in. And so, he got hold of somebody who helped him check-in the hotel.
Now once he checked in, the entrepreneur inside him clicked a brilliant idea that! He realised that this place was perfect and had the potential to be a great address for his business. Therefore, at Rs 200/day, he began staying there and went on to continue that for more than three months. Although, of course he did make sure that his laundry and food were managed from outside, to curb his expenses to the minimum.
After a lot of research, he decided to start his very own business in Mumbai, and having said that; he formed Vedanta Resources!
Story of Vedanta Resources!
Now initially, Vedanta only held one profile of collecting scrap from cable companies from other states and selling to those in Mumbai. Along with that; Anil also acquired a highly potential “Shamsher Sterling Corporation” which manufactured enamelled copper, among other products, with a loan of Rs. 50,000 from Syndicate Bank.
For the next 10 years, all he did was build a solid foundation for these two businesses! Now while doing that he realized that the profitability of these products of this business as a whole was highly volatile, and was completely dependent on the fluctuation of the prices of his raw materials: copper and aluminium. Hence, to counter that; very smartly he decided to control his input costs by manufacturing the metals instead of buying them.
And with that in 1986, he ventured into manufacturing of jelly-filled cables by putting up a factory at a cost of Rs. 7 Cr. (USD $70 million) against the working cost of Rs. 30-40 Cr. (USD $300-400 million), and with that he also officially created creating Sterlite Industries.
Additionally & Subsequently; Sterlite Industries also became the first company in the country to set up a copper smelter and refinery in the private sector and also controlled the largest capacity cast copper rod plants, in just a matter of few years.
Now as much as shrewd of a businessman that he was; Anil at the same time also believed in helping the masses at large, with everything that he had. And to do so; inspired by philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, David Rockefeller and Bill Gates, in the year 1992 Anil created the “Vedanta Foundation” – a wing which would specifically carry out their philanthropic programs and activities.
Clearly, his business was growing rapidly, so in an attempt to strengthen his business furthermore, Anil specially made a plant to manufacture aluminium sheets and foils and along with that he also established another plant under Sterlite Communications to produce optical fibre in Aurangabad in 1993.
In the coming few years; Anil not only grew as a business tycoon by manifolds but also assisted some of the most crucial tasks of the Indian government operations like that of privatising the mining assets. Thus strengthening his political lobby enormously!
And from here onwards began an aggressive expansion of the company!!!
Anil went into a widespread expansion spree and made quite a few notable acquisitions and at the same time also took some drastic steps, some of them included: –
- In 1995, Madras Aluminium, a company that had been shut down for nearly 4 years and was on the verge of dying, was acquired by Sterlite Industries from the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).
- After this; naturally the next step was of the backward integration process i.e. mining.
- Having said that; Sterlite Industries acquired 80% interest in MALCO (1995) and Copper Mines (1999) of Tasmania Pvt. Ltd!
- Additionally; they got their first major opportunity to expand on the domestic front when the government announced a disinvestment program.
- Capitalizing on the same; in 2001, Anil went on to expand even more by acquiring 38.8% interest in India Foils Ltd, 51% interest in BALCO and 46% interest in Hindustan Zinc Ltd. Again, these companies were also considered sleepy and inefficient mining firms.
- And later in 2003; another drastic step was taken and the company was rebranded to Vedanta Resources Plc., primarily to get a piece of the international capital markets.
3. Turning Point
In the same year itself, also came a turning point which changed Anil’s whole life!
Now, those were the times which were really bad and frustrating for small, medium, large or any and every kind of businesses. It was the licence raj regime! And the constraints of raising capital in India were one of the biggest pain causing issues amongst the many that every business faced.
Hence, highly frustrated with situation of the business environment in the country, Anil moved to London, a place where the world’s largest mining and metals companies were headquartered. And with that; he knowingly or unknowingly changed the face of his company, at large.
Now if you thought, this was huge news, then you are highly mistaken because, soon after that, Anil gave everyone the shock of their lives when he got Vedanta Group successfully listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and raised $876 million through an Initial Public Offering.
What was even more overwhelming was that, with that Vedanta not only became the first Indian firm to be listed on London Stock Exchange but also became the first Indian business group to become a global player in mining and metals in less than a decade.
As much as rewarding this success was, Anil made sure not to let it get into his head. In fact, he capitalized on the situation and began strengthening his base globally as well.
- In 2004 Vedanta Resources announced a global bond offering and acquired “Konkola Copper Mines” in Zambia.
- Next, in a matter of three years i.e. in 2007, Vedanta Resources again acquired a controlling stake in “Sesa Goa Limited” – which back then was India’s largest producer-exporter of iron ore
- In the same year itself, Anil roared even more loudly and got his company listed on the “New York Stock Exchange”. This also was a huge boost to his reputation.
- Additionally in the year 2008; Vedanta Resources acquired a controlling stake in “Cairn India” which is India’s largest private sector oil-producing firm.
- In 2010, the company acquired South African miner Anglo American’s portfolio of zinc assets in Namibia, Ireland and South Africa.
- In the financial year 2013-14, Vedanta group and Vedanta foundation collectively invested a whooping $49 Million in conservation of the environment, building infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and funding community programs that helped in improving the health, education and livelihood of more than 4.1 million people.
- Additionally; Anil was also ranked 2nd in Harun India Philanthropy List 2014 for his personal donation of a whooping Rs 1,796 Cr. (about $36 million).
Since then onwards; Vedanta Resources with their main products being copper, zinc, aluminium, lead, iron ore and petroleum have gone on to expand and diversify its portfolio globally and have also expanded their operations to countries like India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Liberia, Ireland and Australia.
Today Vedanta is known to be the largest mining and non-ferrous metals company in India, the largest producer of zinc and the second largest producer of copper in the world and also has mining operations in Australia & Zambia, and oil & gas operations in three other countries as well.
Anil with his very intelligent & strategic decisions and highly efficient leadership skills has successfully managed to uplift his company from revenue of $1 billion to unbelievable revenue of $13 billion, within a period of a decade and at the same time has also grown his employee strength to more than 32,000 people as well.
Received the ‘Business Leader Award” by The Economic Times (2012)
Received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Mining Journal (2009)
Received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award by Ernst &Young (2008)