The year 2020 was a turning point for Gautam Adani, chairman of the ₹2.3 lakh crore Adani Group, as market capitalisation of his listed companies started skyrocketing. That may look like a coincidence but Adani and his close circle consider 20 as his lucky number — 20 is the sum of his birth date; registration numbers of his cars add up to 20; even the postal code of Shantigram in Ahmedabad where he lives and works adds up to 20.
Luck or no luck, in August-end, he overtook French business magnate Bernard Arnault to become the third-richest person in the world. Adani's wealth from listed companies is estimated at ₹10,29,984 crore or $129.16 billion as on August 16 (based on December 2021 shareholding), according to Fortune India research data. This excludes listed cement makers ACC and Ambuja Cement that the group acquired from Holcim in May in a $10.5 billion (₹81,000 crore) deal. Assuming promoter holdings of 63.2% and 54.53%, respectively, his wealth will swell to ₹11,02,870 or $138.30 billion. The wealth was $4.9 billion (₹32,000-34,000 crore) in March 2020.
Adani started his business life in 1985 by importing primary polymers. His early businesses were unglamorous — coal/commodity trading, coal-fired power plants, power transmission, ports, agro-commodities. "We started as a trading house and got listed, but people said Adani does not have assets. We entered ports as we were using 20 ports for trading. When energy crisis came in 2006-07, we were the largest coal importers (in India) and got into coal-fired power plants. When government promoted renewables, we got into natural gas and wind/solar energy. We entered roads and airports when government started public-private participation," Gautam Adani told Fortune India in May-end in his first exclusive interview in a decade.
The expansion is paying off. Now, the group is into 22 businesses — seven started in last two years — with net profit of ₹18,066 crore in FY22. While revenues grew 54%, profit after tax rose 118%, over FY20.
The trigger for the 2020 take-off was global attention that the group got after winning the world's largest solar power bid worth $6 billion from Solar Energy Corporation of India for building 8,000 MW solar power and 2,000 MW solar equipment making capacity. That was also the time Adani decided to re-orient the group based on "green future and related adjacencies." On the one hand, he aggressively acquired competitors and brought in global companies and investors as partners in established businesses, while on the other hand, he incubated future growth businesses — data centres, real estate, airports, hydrogen, defence, water, cement and aluminium. He is planning to invest $70 billion in green businesses over the next eight years, the largest such commitment in the world by any corporate. Adani's ambition is to become the world's largest renewable energy company and hydrogen exporter.
Gautam Adani leads a regal life. He and his family reside in Shantivan, a huge bungalow on Shantipath behind Karnavati Club in Ahmedabad's SG Road that is fully powered by solar energy. He also owns a two-storey ₹400 crore bungalow on New Delhi's Bhagwan Das Road. The palatial property, spread over 3.4 acres, has a built-up area of more than 25,000 square feet, seven bedrooms, six living and dining rooms and a study room. Besides, he has five private jets — two Beechcrafts, a Hawker, a Bombardier and the latest addition, a 17-seater Global 6500 Bombardier acquired for over ₹400 crore. He has a fleet of eight cars at home — a BMW-7 series and a Toyota Alphard are his favourites.
Insiders say despite the riches, the family maintains a low profile. Insiders say Gautam Adani has no preferences in suits or watches (nowadays he sports a Google watch), but is hands-on in learning about new technologies.
On June 24, as he turned 60, he announced a contribution of ₹60,000 crore for charitable activities. The initiative will be spearheaded by his wife Priti Adani, chairperson of Adani Foundation, who tweeted: "More than 36 years back, I put aside my career and began a new journey with Gautam Adani. Today, when I look back, it is only with immense respect and pride for the person he is." Along with the tweet, she also posted an old black and white photograph of a young Adani, with fire and dream in his eyes. That fire and dream are still alive. Now, he's raising the bar, this time for creating new green infrastructure for India's better future.