Anil Agarwal | The scrap dealer-turned Indian metals magnate

Anil Agarwal 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 aluminum conductors. At 19, he left Patna for Mumbai (then Bombay) to explore career opportunities.

Ethnically a Marwari, Anil Agarwal is the founder and executive chairman of Vedanta Resources. It all started when Anil came down to Mumbai as a scrap dealer in 1976 to build an empire in copper, zinc, aluminum and iron ore after leaving his father’s aluminum conductors making business.

Anil Agarwal was born on 24th January 1954 in Patna, Bihar to a lower middle class family whose financial condition was not that strong. His father had a small business of making aluminum conductors. As far as studies are concerned, Anil is a matriculate from Sir Ganesh Dutt Patliputra High School, Bihar where the politician Lalu Prasad Yadav was his classmate. Anil holds a B.E degree from the Malaviya Regional Engineering College, Jaipur.

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 aluminum. 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 Aluminum, 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 Aluminum 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 offering and 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, aluminum, power generation, and oil and gas. The greatest share of its assets, however, is in India; Anil 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.

Indian metals magnate Anil Agarwal saw his wealth decline by more than $1 billion as shares of his London-listed Vedanta Resources plunged on falling commodity prices. Vedanta’s Indian miner Sesa Sterlite, saddled with $12.8 billion of debt, got a reprieve last year when the Supreme Court lifted a 2-year iron ore mining ban in Goa state but its still faces a cap on how much it can mine. Shares of oil-and-gas arm Cairn India, had tanked when its board took the controversial decision in July 2014 of approving a $1.25 billion loan to its parent, Sesa Sterlite. Net profits in a recent quarter took a hit from the decline in oil prices. After meeting Bill and Melinda Gates last year, Agarwal said that he and his family had decided to donate 75% of their wealth to charity, because: ”

Life is not only about wealth.”