The biography of Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani is out. Only 20 show up at the book launch | News Bharat

A the biography of Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani, barely managed to draw a crowd of 20 or so people in the heart of the national capital at the India International Center on Tuesday evening. Introductory remarks by Dilip Cherian—one of two speakers, including the author—during the discussion of Gautam Adani: Rethinking India and the Worldsummed up the mood of the event: “It’s a real pleasure to be here…because it’s almost like we could remove the venue and have the living room to ourselves and have a great interactive conversation.”

Adding a touch of humor to the conversation, Cherian said that, “Under normal circumstances, I would have thought the hall would be full. But for mysterious reasons, I suspect that people are stopped somewhere. The laughter that followed could only measure up to giggles—the nearly empty hall was to blame.

One of the few guests attending the book discussion, investigative journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, also pointed to the low voter turnout. “This hall can hold more than 200 people, but as you can see, only 20 are present,” he told ThePrint after the event. Thakurta, who said he was facing defamation cases filed by the Adani Group, appeared reluctant to comment on the book or the industrialist himself. “I am facing six cases filed by Adani Group – civil and criminal. There are blockages on two of them so I can’t say much.

The session between author RN Bhaskar and host, corporate advisor and image guru Dilip Cherian, originally scheduled to start at 6pm, couldn’t start before 7pm and ended in just 40 minutes.

“We really have to credit Bhaskar for spending close to 20 years patiently listening to him (Gautam Adani) and his family members. He doesn’t get permission for an official biography and yet he keeps up his efforts to make sure he comes out with the book,” Cherian said while appreciating Bhaskar’s work.

The 254-page book focuses on the business strategies that Adani and his company adopted to climb the ladder of high growth. Bhaskar credits a combination of Adani family members and professionals who lie at the core of the Adani empire for its exponential rise. “Without such a combination, it is doubtful whether Gautambhai could have created such a large empire,” the book says.

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Adani and the Modi government

The first-generation entrepreneur conglomerate has grown the fastest in terms of valuation over the past few years, leaving behind Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.

In a brief audience interaction that came at the end of the talk, one of the guests asked the author whether the trajectory of Adani and its business would have been the same had the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not come to power in 2014. “ When the land for Mundra was purchased, Congress was in power. When the first power plants appeared, Congress was in power. Once you build the first port, making the second one becomes easier because you already have the template,” Bhaskar said in response to the question.

In his book, Bhaskar writes that aligning Adani Group interests with national interests worked for the industrialist. When asked by ThePrint to explain this synergy, Bhaskar – in a brief pre-session interview – gave the example of Wipro founder chairman Azim Premji.

“Premji’s father was an oil trader. When Azim came, he knew that he could not develop an empire unless he could professionalize trade and delegate responsibility. So he created the structure to facilitate the oil trade. The industry was against it, the government did not encourage the oil trade. Premji moved from oil to computers. At that time, the government itself turned to IT. So Premji happened to join forces with that of the government. Economies are shaped by government policies and entrepreneurs, but the former is critical,” he said.

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Overleveraging and wealth creation

The port-to-power behemoth has seen tremendous growth and expansion, especially over the past decade. But the company was also found to be “deeply overleveraged.” Explaining the business rationale behind the group’s “debt addiction”, Bhaskar said that “to grow a business, you need money. From a businessman’s point of view, it doesn’t matter if it’s your money or borrowed, as long as it generates a rate of return that is higher than the bank rate. If I’m making more money, then it’s worth it, even if it’s with borrowed money. The trick is to make it sustainable.”

When ThePrint asked to comment on the proportionality of Adani group’s rapid growth and wealth creation for India, the author, whose first book was also on Adani, said that “First, without a port you cannot export, you cannot import. You can export, but not without a port. So, Adani has changed the way commerce works in India. See the growth in trading volume. Not only exports and imports. Has India changed? yes You couldn’t do it without the series of ports that Adani has taken control of – 13 ports now and two more in the future.

Second, Bhaskar said, the Adani Group has ensured reliable electricity in Gujarat. “The country became energy surplus only after the Tatas and Adanis set up the power blocks. It (Adani) is the largest distributor of gas. Is this wealth? When a woman does not use a blasphemy and there is gas – its clean energy, its ripple effects on family income are incredible. Green energy? Is this a benefit to the state? Or some energy? You need people to run the factories. Look at the power of his employees. This is wealth.”

The session ended by touching on the dilemma faced by a rapidly liberalizing economy like India’s – ethics versus business practices of top industry leaders like the Adanis and Ambanis compared to the Tatas and Birlas of yesteryear.

“Ethical standards change from time to time. Dads made their money from opium back when it wasn’t illegal. But it was immoral. The Birlas were involved in a lot of jute smuggling. like Godfather says that behind every great fortune is a small crime.

A quote from Paranjoy Guha Thakurta has been updated from an earlier version.

(Editing by Zoya Bhatti)

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