This article is about Anil Agarwal the industrialist. For the environmentalist of the same name, see Anil Agarwal (environmentalist).
24 January 1954 (age 63) Patna, Bihar, India
Chairman of Vedanta Resources
the Vedanta Foundation
$1.71 billion (2015)
2 – Agnivesh (son) and Priya (daughter)
Anil Agarwal is the founder and Chairman of Vedanta Resources Plc. He controls Vedanta Resources Plc through Volcan Investments, a holding vehicle with a 61.7% stake in the business.
He was born and brought up in Patna, India. He studied at Miller High School but quit school at 15 to join his father’s business, making aluminium conductors. At 19, he left Pune for Mumbai (then Bombay) to explore career opportunities.
In the mid-1970s, he began trading in scrap metal, collecting it from cable companies in other states and selling it in Mumbai.In 1976, Anil Agarwal acquired Shamsher Sterling Corporation, a manufacturer of enameled copper, among other products, with a bank loan. For the next 10 years, he ran both businesses.
In 1986, he set up a factory to manufacture jelly-filled cables, creating Sterlite Industries. He soon realized that the profitability of his business was volatile, fluctuating with the prices of his raw materials: copper and aluminium. So he decided to control his input costs by manufacturing the metals instead of buying them.
In 1993, Sterlite Industries became the first private sector company in India to set up a copper smelter and refinery. In 1995, Sterlite Industries acquired Madras Aluminium, a ‘sick’ company that had been shut down for 4 years and held by the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). The next step of the backward integration process seemed natural: mining.
His first opportunity came when the government announced a disinvestment program. In 2001, he acquired 51 percent in Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO), a public sector undertaking; in the very next year, he acquired a majority stake (nearly 65 per cent) in state-run HZL. Both the companies were considered sleepy and inefficient mining firms.
To access international capital markets, Anil Agarwal and his team incorporated Vedanta Resources Plc in 2003. At the time of its listing, Vedanta Resources Plc, was the first Indian firm to be listed on London Stock Exchange, on December 10, 2003, Vedanta Resources became the parent company of the group through a process of internal restructuring of group companies and their shareholding.
In 2004 Vedanta Resources Plc announced a global bond offeringand acquired Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, Africa.In 2007, Vedanta Resources acquired a controlling stake in Sesa Goa Limited, India’s largest producer-exporter of iron ore,and in 2010, the company acquired South African miner Anglo American’s portfolio of zinc assets in Namibia, Ireland and South Africa. The next year, Vedanta Resources acquired controlling stake in Cairn India, India’s largest private sector oil-producing firm. The merger of Sesa Goa and Sterlite Industries was announced in 2012, as part of the Vedanta Group’s consolidation.
Vedanta Resources, headquartered in London, is a globally diversified natural resources conglomerate, with interests in zinc, lead, silver, copper, iron ore, aluminium, power generation, and oil and gas. The greatest share of its assets, however, is in India; Agarwal lives in London, but as he has reiterated often, his heart and soul are in India. His philanthropic activities are targeted at eradicating poverty, by creating jobs and contributing to India’s GDP growth through his business operations.
Controversy and criticism
In 2004, a committee of the Indian Supreme Court charged that Vedanta had dumped thousands of tons of arsenic-bearing slag near its factory in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, resulting in major poisoning of the environment and neighbouring population. In 2005, another committee of the Indian Supreme Court charged that Vedanta had forced over one hundred indigenous families from their homes in the Indian state of Odisha, where it sought to mine bauxite. According to the committee’s report: “An atmosphere of fear was created through the hired goons,” and residents were “beaten up by the employees of M/s Vedanta.” Vedanta’s actions in Odisha were rebuked by the British commerce agency, and the Church of England investment funds sold their shares in the company in protest. In Zambia, Vedanta dumped hazardous waste into the Kafue River, from its copper mine there, according to a lawsuit filed by 2,000 residents, resulting in widespread human illness and the death of fish. A local judge stated: “This was lack of corporate responsibility and criminal, and a tipping point for corporate recklessness.” In 2014, an audit was begun by Zambian officials due to suspicions that Vedanta has not been paying its proper fees to the government. In addition, “hundreds of former mine workers are fighting Vedanta for severance or disability pay.”
In 1992, Anil Agarwal created the Vedanta Foundation as the vehicle through which the group companies would carry out their philanthropic programs and activities. In the financial year 2013-14, the Vedanta group companies and the Vedanta foundation invested US$49.0 million in building hospitals, schools and infrastructure, conserving the environment and funding community programs that improve health, education and livelihood of over 4.1 million people. The initiatives were undertaken in partnership with the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Among his inspirations, Agarwal counts Andrew Carnegie and David Rockefeller who built public works with their fortunes, and Bill Gates. The activities funded by his philanthropy are focused on child welfare, women empowerment and education. Anil Agarwal was ranked second in Hurun India Philanthropy List 2014 for his personal donation of Rs.1,796 crore (about $36 million). He was ranked 25th in the Hurun India Rich List with a personal fortune of 12,316cr.
Agarwal has pledged to donate 75% of his family’s wealth to charity, saying he was inspired by Bill Gates and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Honours and awards
The Economic Times, Business Leader Award – 2012
Mining Journal Lifetime Achievement Award – 2009
The Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year – 2008
The Asian Awards Entrepreneur of the Year – 2016
Vedanta was stripped of international safety awards after it was found it failed to declare its involvement one of the worst industrial accidents in India’s history.