Gautam Shantilal Adani, the 57-year-old businessman from Gujarat who sits on the 1,300 crores USD (revenue) Adani Group, is the businessman of the decade, as per TFI’s analysis. Adani, whose net worth is estimated around 15.7 billion dollars by Forbes, got the permission to work on an Australian coal mine in June 2019 after a 9-year wait; and this is the latest in the long list of Adani’s achievements. He also runs Abbott Point port in Australia.
The Adani group controls India’s largest port- Mundra in Gujarat- and apart from port business, the group’s interest includes power generation and transmission, edible oil, real estate, defence and the latest- data storage.
Born in June 1962, Adani, a school dropout from Ahmedabad’s CN Vidyalaya, started his journey as a diamond merchant in Mumbai. His family was involved in the textile business, but he was always allured by Mumbai’s thriving diamond industry and had no interest in the family business.
At the age of 18, he dropped from school and caught a train for Mumbai, where he made millions in diamond business within three years. By the age of 20, Adani was a self-made millionaire.
Adani Group is the country’s largest private power producer, as it owns various thermal power plants that produce up to 4,620 MW.
During his school days, Adani visited Gujarat’s Kandla Port and carried out by its grandeur, he decided to build something like that or, even bigger than that. He realized the dream in 1995, almost 15 years after he entered the business when he secured a contract for Mundra port in Gujarat. Adani is also the brain behind port-rail linkage policy, as he convinced Nitish Kumar, who was railway minister in the Vajpayee government about the strategic importance of linking railway with ports.
Unlike Ambani, with whom his name is very often clubbed in the popular Ambani-Adani phrase, he started from scratches and made millions within the first few years of his entrepreneurial venture.
In the last four years, the wealth of Adani multiplied by 3 times, given the growing importance of the infrastructural development, the sector where major businesses of the group lie.
Unlike Ambani, Adani had not limited the entrepreneurial venture to India; he invested 10 billion dollars in the Australian coal mine, knowing that he might lose it all if the government scarps the deal.
His above 15 billion dollar wealth primarily comes from a 62 per cent stake in Adani Ports & Special Economic- the flagship company of the group. He also controls 75 per cent stake in Adani Enterprises, Adani Power, Adani Transmissions and Adani Gas.
Now, the power sector to behemoth is looking to revolutionize another sector and may make big money in the process. In a massive push for data localisation, the Indian government has asserted that global firms like Amazon and Google must store Indian data in India. The Adani Group plans to capitalize on this development to enter the data storage business.
The aggressive entry into data storage market by Adani Group is in line with group’s operating habit, which is to look for ‘first mover’s advantage’ in the sectors prioritized by the government and monopolize it. The business giant adopted the same strategy in ports, special economic zones (SEZs) and many other businesses.
When the government announced that it will incentivize local defence manufacturing, Adani group moved aggressively to obtain defence contractors to sell military equipment supplies. A similar strategy was adopted for the gas sector when the government pushed for use of LPG for cooking and transportation. The group has aimed to take first mover’s advantage. However, Adani likes to put it differently, “Our main goal is nation building through infrastructure,” and added that “the Adani Group has always focused on businesses in line [with] the government’s vision.”
The data storage business also requires huge investment, highly regulated by the government and is being prioritized by the government, like all the other sectors -ports, electricity and coal mining in which Adani Group is active.
Given the fact that data is being considered as the new oil, India’s capacity building in data storage is necessary and in the national interest and the Adani group is poised to benefit from the data localization drive.
Adani, the person who came to be known amongst the most recognizable names in the country’s corporate world in the last decade, and tripled the wealth in last four years, is the TFI’s Businessperson of the Decade.