Gautam Adani Interview

Gautam Adani Interview
First of all, something which the entire world now discusses. It is about your journey in which adding millions and billions of dollars every day is now starting to look like a routine.

From one point of view, it is just statistics, and it is certainly not our aim to get confused by it. It is important that the work you are doing is useful for society and the country. Being an Indian, I feel that for some time now, there is a feeling in the whole of India that we should lift our nation from a developing to a developed category. In achieving this goal, it can be considered that, among the efforts being made for this objective, our group also has made a small contribution.

Assuming that being in the race to become the richest in the world is just a number, where do you get the inspiration from to march ahead?

India achieved freedom after a long time in slavery. Everything needed to be built from scratch. I am not entitled to speak about very old things. But in the 1980s and 1990s, when we entered the business, we felt very closely the needs of the country and its problems. We neither had enough developed sea ports, nor airports. The condition of the roads was also not very good. There was no match between the demand and supply of electricity. On the other hand, China, which resumed its journey of progress alongside India, sprinted at a very high speed. I realized that our country’s biggest need was to create a better infrastructure. There was no dearth of resources, but we needed systems to ensure their proper use. Since then, we have been trying to fulfill that need.

To what extent did this effort of yours become successful?

Perhaps only you people can give the right answer. We are only doing our work. Personally, as an Indian, I am satisfied that I and my group are able to contribute as much as possible to the rebuilding of the country. I see this also as the grace of God and the blessings of the elders. I consider it my good fortune that for the last three decades all the stakeholders, investors, government, regulators, and all the people of the country have been supporting and encouraging us in our efforts.

But your critics say that all this has been possible because of your proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modiji. Your comments?

Those who criticize like this neither know Modiji nor his capabilities. Their criticism is probably because I am from Gujarat and Narendra Modiji has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for twelve years. I know as well as others do that he is completely fair and honest. The truth is that because of his policies, first in Gujarat and now in the country, a favorable environment has been created for doing business and all sectors of businesses benefited from it. The country and the states have benefitted too. As far as the issue of personal gain is concerned, my group’s work is also spread across all the non-BJP ruled states of the country like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, etc. These states are ruled by different parties. We are working with those governments also with proper policy and determination, with their cooperation and coordination. Can you give me a single example in which any of my companies got a contract without competitive bidding?

Why does Rahul Gandhi constantly target you?

How can I answer this? He has been the national president of the country’s oldest political party. He is a politician, whereas I am a normal businessman.

There is also a big criticism that the debt burden on the companies of your group is such that if the bubble bursts, the banks would be in big trouble.

You have asked a very good question. You know that companies working in the field of infrastructure development require a lot of money. They take loans. Now if the loan is for a longer period, available on good terms, and you are able to grow very quickly with that money, then this is a good strategy. In the last 9 years, the debt in our Group has grown at the rate of 11% and the earnings doubled at the rate of 22%. So, tell me, isn’t this a great strategy? This is the reason why in these 9 years the share prices of my companies have increased very fast and investors and shareholders have got huge profits. Another important point is that in the last 9 years the ratio of debt to debt servicing income – called EBIDTA– has come down by almost 50%. It is also worth mentioning that during the same period, the share of government and private banks in providing loans has come down from 84% to just 33%, that is, a decline of about 60%. These figures make it clear that all these allegations are baseless. History is witness that we have not only not defaulted, the Adani Group has not delayed loan repayment even for a single day.  Rating agencies have a very important place in assessing the financial health of companies. The best rating from the rating agencies is the sovereign rating. I am happy to share that almost all of our Adani companies enjoy sovereign ratings – at par with the ratings of the Government of India. It is also worth noting that, except ours, not so many companies of any other business group in India have got sovereign ratings. Debt is not an issue at all. It is surprising that so much is highlighted about the debt of our companies, but it is never discussed that, during the last three years, we have received an investment of about Rs 1,30,000 crore. And that too from the biggest investors in the world.

So far, we have asked mostly the same questions that the critics keep raising. One last question: you claim to be making the biggest green energy company, but you also have a huge coal business. Some time back you also acquired coal mines in Australia.

Personally, I am a staunch supporter of green energy, but the ground reality is that we still need thermal power projects for India’s energy security. But gradually fossil fuel-based energy will be replaced by green energy and soon, green and clean energy will become the primary source of energy security in the country. Until then, fossil fuels will also have a role to play in this era of transition. Hence, our long-term business is for clean and green energy.

You are a great source of inspiration for many people in the country. Knowing about your journey will inspire and motivate them to achieve great success.

I am a simple family man, brought up in Indian traditions. Even now we live in a joint family. In that family, not only the blood relations but my co-workers and friends are also a part of the family. I try to make sure that whatever I do, it should be useful not only for me but also for others. Whatever work we have done, if you want to give it the title of success, then all these people have played a very important role in that journey.

Once upon a time in the country, whenever industrial houses were mentioned, the names Tata and Birla were cited. Now the names often mentioned are Adani and Ambani. How do you see this change?

Undoubtedly, the Tata-Birla duo have been and are still the most respected families in the country. We still learn that today. Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Group, also set an example of what a common man can do. His journey from scratch to the top is an inspiration for all entrepreneurs. For me, it is even more important because I am also a first-generation entrepreneur. I too started my business from zero like Dhirubhai. My group feels grateful to all these industrial groups as we have learned a lot from their experiences.

Gautam Adani is a role model for millions of people today. Has there been any role model for Gautam Adani as well? If yes, then who?

Yes, absolutely. And that is Lord Shri Krishna. In any field of life, whenever you face a challenge, you will find a solution in Shri Krishna’s life. He is an example of our journey from struggle to success and from crisis to solution. Whenever I am in a dilemma, I remember him.

Are there any sources of inspiration even in the present times?

Remember the common man of cartoonist RK Laxman? His problems, his aspirations, his passion, his despair, his joy, all his emotions? I have lived all those feelings. Have seen them very closely. In my life, with family, and with friends. Therefore, every citizen of the country is a source of inspiration for me. We dream for their betterment and work to fulfill them.

The start-up culture is growing rapidly in the country. What advice do you have for those who aspire to launch start-ups?

There are no shortcuts in life. Dreams come true only when you have full faith in your dreams and work hard to fulfill them. The cycle of success and failure is a part of life. Don’t be afraid or cowed down by failure. As a child, these words of eminent Hindi poet Shivmangal Singh ‘Suman’ had left an indelible impression on me: In defeat or in victory, I am unafraid; Whomever I meet on the path of struggle; This is right, that too is right; I will not ask for blessings.

Let us return to the economy of the country. Have we fully recovered from the crisis that followed the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war?

Remember, at the time of the pandemic, did anyone expect such a successful vaccination program? Did it appear easy to emerge from the economic crisis after the lockdown? It seemed as if the healthcare infrastructure would completely collapse. But did anything like this happen? After the Russia-Ukraine war started, there is an energy crisis all over the world, a food crisis, a financial crisis, and inflation, but our country has been spared from all these problems. This is proof of the strength of the country’s economy. Foreign investors are queuing up to invest money. The manufacturing sector is about to take off as the infrastructure required for it is ready. We are already ahead of many others in the service sector. Now many international companies are coming to India for production. India is another name of hope on the world stage. India has got the chairmanship of the G-20. Being Indians, we all can appreciate this change.

The interview will remain incomplete if your entry into the media sector is not discussed. Some people also see your NDTV’s acquisition as an attempt to curb press freedom.

The entry of the corporate world into the media, and the expansion of media into other businesses, have been happening for years. Not only in India, but all over the world. But since Gautam Adani is doing it, there is bound to be noise. I have already clarified that the NDTV has been acquired as a social responsibility, not to earn profit. There are very good media groups in India but I want to build NDTV an international-level brand. NDTV is a very good brand and has all the qualities a good brand should have. What is needed is the right thinking, strategy, and technical, financial, and human resources through which NDTV can achieve a global status in line with its capabilities. I would also like to mention that the CEOs of all my companies are independent and I have no interference whatsoever in their day-to-day functioning. My role is limited to strategizing. In NDTV’s case too, there will be a very clear Lakshman Rekha between the owners and the editorial.

Can you tell us about some achievements of the Adani Foundation? 

Through its continuous efforts, the Adani Foundation is engaged in bringing about social and economic changes. Under the strong leadership of the Foundation’s Chairperson, Preeti Adani, the Foundation today is among the most active organizations in the world making a positive and far-reaching social impact.  If we talk about the figures, the Foundation has helped about 40 lakh people in 2409 villages through the support program in every corner of India. Many initiatives like Swachhagraha, nutrition, Saksham, Udaan, and Utthaan, have given a new ray of hope to thousands of children, youth, women, and families.  The Adani Foundation is recognized for its determination to make a positive difference in education, health, sustainable livelihoods, and rural infrastructure and improve many lives. The basic goal of the Adani Foundation is to create a society that is equal and harmonious for all.

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