New Delhi, May 15: A reception often reserved for rockstars was given to mining tycoon Anil Agarwal when he began revealing on social media the nuggets of his rise from a scrap metal dealer to one of India’s most important autodidacts .
And now he’s been inundated with booking writing offers and even been offered money for a biopic.
In February this year, 68-year-old Agarwal began tweeting his journey from Bihar to first Mumbai and then to London to run a globally diversified natural resources company with interests in zinc-lead- silver, iron ore, steel, copper, aluminum, electricity, oil and gas.
“I’m not a star. I’m not a (well) qualified man. I’m not a movie actor. But the response I’ve received (to tweets about my trip) is overwhelming. two million replies to just one tweet. I was surprised myself,” he told PTI in an interview.
The President of Vedanta, Anil Agarwal was born into the lower middle class Marwari family on January 24, 1954 in Patna, Bihar. His father Dwarka Prasad Agarwal had a small aluminum conductor business. He left school at the age of 15 to join his father’s business and at 19 he went to Mumbai “with only a tiffin box, bedding and dreams in his eyes”.
“When I write my story, I always keep in mind that I am not boasting. I am only saying please don’t be afraid of failure. Never think or dream small. If I can do it, you can too. You are more capable than me. That’s my message,” he said.
While the social media posts have been successful, Agarwal says publishers have consistently sued his people for the rights to the book. Offers of films also reached him.
“There is not a film company that has come close. All the major producers approached. They want to give me money (to make a biopic),” he said without disclosing names.
He says he has not made up his mind and that a decision will be driven by the opinion of his close aides and his daughter Priya.
“I’m not a rockstar. I’m from Patna and I’m proud of my roots,” he said. “I was told that I shouldn’t mention I’m from Patna because that would spoil my name . And I told them that I will not stop. These are my roots.
The statement is typical of the mining magnate’s brutal style, honed over a remarkable three-decade rise. Characterized by rapid growth and bold transactions, the rise has been remarkable.
In 1976 he founded Sterlite Industries as a copper manufacturer and a decade later branched out into the production of copper cables for telecommunications companies. He made headlines when in 2001 his company bought a majority stake in state-owned aluminum maker Balco.
Two years later, Vedanta became the first Indian company to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In 2007 Vedanta acquired a majority stake in iron miner Sesa Goa and in 2011 took control of the Indian oil assets of British firm Cairn Energy for $6.5 billion.
In October 2018, Agarwal privatized Vedanta after paying more than $1 billion for the third of the metallurgical business he did not already own. His publicly traded company Sterlite Technologies spun off its power transmission business into a separate unit and listed an infrastructure investment trust.
Agarwal, which owns a majority stake in India’s Vedanta Ltd, has set up a $10 billion fund in partnership with London-based Centricus to invest in public sector companies being privatized.
In tweets spread over weeks, he spoke about the beginning of his great ambition, his most difficult years of life, his struggles with depression and the moment when his destiny finally changed forever. From his first company, “Shamsher Sterling Cable Company”, to becoming the father of a multinational mining company, Anil Agarwal has not had it easy.
He said: “I bought my first business with great ambition, but the next 10 years were the hardest years of my life.”
“In 1976, I acquired Shamsher Sterling Cable Company but I had no money to pay my employees’ salaries or buy the necessary raw materials. I spent my days visiting banks to settle my payments and my nights reviving the closed cable factory,” Agarwal wrote.
To make ends meet, Agarwal said he started nine businesses in various fields: magnetic wires, different cables, aluminum rods, multiplexes with Warner Brothers – “but all of them failed, one after another. Yet, I never gave up.
He adds: “Even though I didn’t want to admit it, the stress of the financial crisis dragged me down. For three years I sank into depression and no one knew about it. I was determined to get my life back on track, so I exercised and meditated as much as possible…”
However, today things are different for Agarwal. He says, “To succeed, you must first learn to fail.”
Like all industrialists, he also has detractors. Some analysts and fund managers privately say its heavily leveraged creation remains opaque and unwieldy.
Vedanta also suffered damaging political battles in India. An industry-wide mining ban in Goa has crippled the group’s iron ore division, lengthy legal disputes with local tribes led to the mothballing of the Lanjigarh aluminum plant in the ‘Orissa and its copper unit in Tamil Nadu was forced to cease operations following a large protest in 2018 over alleged pollution.
Indifferent to setbacks, Agarwal says he wants Vedanta to grow 20-30% a year and create thousands of jobs, thereby strengthening the local population.
“Of course, profit is at the center, but our goal is to see India become a developed country,” he says.
Agarwal, who in the past has spoken of his intention to step down from the leadership of Vedanta, says he is “in no rush” to draw up a formal succession plan.
The company is owned by a holding company and is managed by professional management.
“People entrust their empires to sons/daughters whether they are capable of it or not. It is not our mindset. We will do what is best in the interest of the company,” a he said without further details. (PTI)