Asking people to dream big, the chairman of Vedanta Resources Ltd revealed that he often accompanied his father to the Hindalco factory when he was 14 years old. Father and son used to travel together from Patna to Banaras by train to buy aluminum in Aditya Birla Group’s metal flagship company.
After the train journey he took a taxi ride full of people – which Agarwal did not experience very well. In a LinkedIn post, the industrialist revealed that the taxi driver used to play late singer-composer Mohammad Rafi’s classic song ‘Woh Kaun Si Mushkil Hai’ from the 1961 film ‘Maa Beta’. Manoj Kumar, Amita and Nirupa Roy played the lead roles in this film. ,
He continues in his post, “I hardly knew that the lyrics of this song would act as an inspiration in my life. Back then my dream was to travel in a taxi with fewer people, but that was about to change.” Recalling his early days, seeing the shiny new equipment at the Hindalco factory and the workers there, he felt ‘nothing is impossible’.” He says, “I made a promise to myself, one day I will be my umpire.”
Agarwal’s promise to himself was soon to turn into reality. In the 1970s, he started the business of metal scrap sales. He worked very hard to know about it. His journey started with Madras Aluminum Company (MALCO), which was running in huge losses. However, he was confident that Malco has the potential as it is located near a bauxite mine, which can increase production capacity.
“I found a power plant supplier who did not ask me for any down payment and helped increase the production capacity to around 10,000 to 25,000 tonnes,” he said. Next on his agenda was Bharat Aluminum Company (BALCO), India’s first privatization deal. He tried his hand at this business when most of the investors stayed away from it. They say they had nothing to lose.
In his post, he writes, “Investors used to shy away from buying loss-making companies, but I saw them as opportunities because what I had to gain was huge.” This paved the way for Vedanta Aluminium. The late Chief Minister of Orissa, Biju Patnaik, approached Agarwal to set up an alumina plant in Kalahandi – one of the least developed areas at that time. Naveen Patnaik, the current CM of the state, also played a role in this. As a youth, Agarwal says that he was often told to dream within the realm, but this never stopped him and thus today he is not only in India but in the world.