Against All Odds

As 2023 draws to an end, it’s time to reflect on the highlights of the year. For the Adani Group, the year started on a positive note. Never had the Group been so confident about its strength and growing prominence. The richest Indian, Asian and the third richest man in the world, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani was all set to launch the Adani Enterprises Ltd’s (AEL) follow-on public offer (FPO) on January 27. The much-awaited FPO was to the tune of ₹20,000 crore that could influence the AEL stock on markets and propel the Group even higher on the growth list.

However, it was not meant to be. Just days before the launch, U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research came out with a report, intending to bring down the Rs 2.62 lakh crore conglomerate and earn profits through its short position. It came as a big setback to Mr Adani and his empire.    

The Hindenburg report accused the Adani Group of stock manipulation and regulatory failure. In a matter of few weeks, Adani lost over $100 billion.  Conspiracy theories began to proliferate. These were discussed and debated by activists and journalists, making news headlines.

The man, who rose from being a diamond sorter to becoming one of the richest men in the world, has faced his share of challenges and attacks on multiple fronts – his alleged close relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, mining operations, power projects and alleged violation of SEZ norms in Mundra. Each time he rose stronger and determined to keep building and expanding his business group and contribute to nation-building. The infrastructure behemoth is built on a very solid foundation. 

The FPO was called off. Within days, the billionaire’s wealth nosedived by over 60%. But Mr Adani is a man of mettle, never cowed down by hurdles and hardships. He did not waste time and started to consolidate by repaying debts; it was a smart decision to win back the confidence of retail investors. In the months following the attack, the Group took several measures to regain the trust of banks and global investors. Be it GQG Partners or IHC, Dubai, all reposed their trust in him and backed several Group businesses.

Even as the Group was trying to stabilize the situation, petitions were filed in the Supreme Court (SC) on the loss of investor wealth in the stock market due to the steep fall in Adani stocks. The SC formed a committee to probe the matter and directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to investigate if there was a regulatory failure on part of the Group.

The months following that report witnessed a sort of courtroom drama unfolding before the public, ending in a clean chit given to the group by the SC panel. In its May report, the panel gave the Adani Group a clean chit. It stated that the conglomerate took the required actions to reassure individual investors following the release of the Hindenburg report and there was no regulatory failure on the part of SEBI and no pricing manipulation on the part of the Adani Group.

However, this did not go down well with some like Prashant Bhushan, who questioned the veracity of the panel’s decision. He also questioned SEBI’s role and that of the panel members.   

Bhushan, known for his propensity to file public interest litigations (PILs), found himself in a tight spot after accusing several members of the SC panel of conflict of interest. “Be careful as we are not giving any character certificates. We can’t make random allegations,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud said while taking exception to the allegations made by the senior lawyer against the expert panel formed by the SC to find out if there were irregularities on the part of the Adani Group in its dealings.

The CJI slammed the lawyer, who petitioned the court for a probe into the allegations made by U.S. short-seller against the Adani Group and by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). He also sought action against SEBI for missing its deadline for a report in the Hindenburg case.

Bhushan levelled specific accusations against Somasekhar Sundaresan, claiming that in 2006, the lawyer had represented Adani against SEBI. “Let’s be reasonable,” the CJI responded. “He was just playing the part of a lawyer. You’re saying that he worked for Adani in 2006. How can an incident that happened 17 years ago create a conflict of interest? There has to be some responsibility about the allegations you make.”

The CJI said SEBI did not select the members of the SC expert committee. “It’s unfair to the committee because if this continues, people will not want to work in SC committees,” he observed. On November 23, Sundaresan was named a judge of the Bombay High Court.

What went against the holier-than-thou PIL man was his conflict-of-interest allegations. They backfired when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for SEBI, told the court that the OCCRP report that Bhushan cited in his plea was sent by him to OCCRP. “When we approached OCCRP for the report, they told us to get it from Bhushan,” Mehta told the court, stating that Bhushan got the report made and then appeared in the same case. Mehta said he did not disclose it earlier as it would have embarrassed Bhushan.

The SG told the court that the OCCRP directed them to an NGO linked to Bhushan. This, the SG termed, was a conflict of interest because “if we start looking into such self-serving reports, our regulation will become meaningless”.

The OCCRP is a non-profit organisation comprising a global network of investigative journalists that has funding from the likes of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the United States Department of State, Swiss Confederation, Google Ideas, Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the Knight Foundation.

CJI Chandrachud cautioned the attorneys to exercise responsibility and limit their requests for reasonable relief in similar circumstances to those in which they have proof. “You lawyers should be responsible with what you’re asking for,” he said. “This isn’t your typical classroom argument. Without a single piece of proof, you are requesting that the Supreme Court launch an investigation into SEBI and LIC? Are you aware of the repercussions?”

“SEBI cannot be allowed to look into something based just on media reports,” the CJI told the lawyers. He pointed out that there was no evidence in the file to cast doubt on the validity of SEBI’s probe. Dismissing Bhushan’s claim that SEBI did not take any action in response to news that implicated Adani, he said media stories were not subject to the same scrutiny as SEBI’s investigations. The apex court then reserved its judgement in the case.

The Art of Giving Back

It is as much about the people who contribute to social change as the people who are willing to encourage it. Somebody aptly described it: “Just as every push requires a pull, every pull requires a push”. And when push and pull are combined and pointed in the same direction, magic is created.

Every contribution to community service, be it on an individual or group level, is important. Businesses can make a large impact and should contribute to bringing about transformation – a great way of giving back to the community. After all, communities play an integral part in the growth of businesses. This kind of involvement can influence everything. Such efforts, no matter how big or small, have a good impact. Businesses that participate in charitable endeavours might gain immediate or long-term advantages that are often tangible.

Creating an environment where you believe that giving back is important need not require a reason. It could be because it makes you and everyone around you feel good. Or it could be because it is crucial and might save a life.

In the pursuit of this purpose, the Adani Group launched Green Talks, a fresh approach to helping solve social problems, in 2021. Chairman Gautam Adani believes that as a society, we must agree on a baseline quality of life, on giving all people fair access to good primary education, good primary healthcare and the opportunities to fulfill their economic aspirations. Innovation and enterprise can help people if directed at them and at making specific contributions to help them improve their lives.

Giving back is the right thing to do and we should encourage social enterprises as they focus on improving the lives of the less privileged, focus their energies and abilities on serving society. Communities that have been traditionally deprived don’t need handouts and lofty promises; what they want, and need, are resources to boost their skills, capacities and abilities to make new livelihoods and adapt old livelihoods to new demands.

Green Talks is an annual event that honours five social entrepreneurs working to address social issues. In today’s fast-changing world where survival is under constant threat, the only way to survive is by innovating, and Green Talks is one such innovation. It finds mission-driven businesses and helps them grow, allows them to eventually reach out to more people and make a positive, long-lasting impact.

While launching the inaugural Green Talks, Mr Adani said, “We must invest heavily in enabling the transition to a greener, low carbon world. The transition must also include plans to enable the social upliftment of people. The green shoots of recovery for the planet can be truly green only if we create a climate of faith and optimism for even the world’s most socially deprived people.” 

A leader needs to be obstinate and transformational. A leader also needs to have a big heart. There are incidents where people have approached Mr Adani for help and never returned empty-handed. Some years ago, he visited a hospital where 20 patients were waiting for organ transplantations due to lack of money. When Pratap Reddy of Apollo Hospitals mentioned it to him, he immediately wrote a cheque for the said amount and gave it to him. He is a unique personality. He provided help to an employee’s blind daughter, who sang beautifully. Nothing escapes his attention. The mark of his attention to detail is evident everywhere – people, ports, buildings. He never cuts corners.

He was named in the 16th edition of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy list last year and in the EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2023.

AEL: A Successful Incubation Story

Incubators are more than just a buzzword. They play a significant role in a startup’s rise to success. They are a kind of launchpad for startups and enterprises in their early stages, offering them resources they need to develop and expand.

The Adani Group’s incubation continues to be a success story with airports, green hydrogen and other assets emerging strongly and now contributing near 8% of the portfolio EBITDA, said Jugeshinder (Robbie) Singh, Group CFO, while releasing the Adani Portfolio’s half yearly financial performance update. He said the Portfolio had withstood the test of time and had a track record of tremendous growth despite macroeconomic and other challenges.

The Group’s business model is unique. The organization keeps building one business after another and expanding – this is called adjacencies of the business models. AEL is considered the largest listed business incubator of India with a focus on four core sectors: energy and utility, transportation and logistics, consumer goods, and primary industry. These businesses are a balanced combination of well-established ventures and emerging enterprises, all dedicated to meeting the evolving needs of India.

Within the Adani portfolio, AEL has a track record of establishing new business ventures, growing them into substantial, self-sufficient entities, and then spinning them off into separately listed, scalable companies. Since its inception in 1993, AEL has proven its ability to create sustainable infrastructure enterprises by continuously generating value for shareholders by using this strategic approach.

Incubators help businesses get their ideas off the ground and give them a leg up. In its report, Jefferies Equity Research said AEL had incubated six industry leading infra businesses and listed them, including by way of demergers. Over the years, the group has also demonstrated that it is ready to forge necessary strategic alliances (for example, with CMA-CGM, TotalEnergies, EdgeConnex and Wilmar) to support business growth. Over a 25-year period, these ventures have given stockholders significant returns.

The report said that investments in airports, green hydrogen, data centers and roads are likely to be ramped up over next decade and they are expected to be next growth driver for business. AEL classifies its current portfolio into established businesses (like IRM coal trading, mining services and solar manufacturing) and developing businesses, which include airports, roads, new industries (green hydrogen). There are several businesses (such as copper, PVC, water infrastructure, defence and aerospace) that are still in the early stages of development and aren’t contributing to revenues/profitability currently. With a new set of businesses, the company is also extending its focus to B2C businesses through airports, digital (super app) and FMCG.

Using financial flows from established businesses, AEL’s business model focuses on growing emerging or next generation businesses.

Mundra Port Break Cargo Handling Records

Milestones in the realm of maritime trade and logistics are sometimes gauged by the sheer amount of Cargo that ports handle. Mundra Port, situated on India’s west coast, recently celebrated one outstanding accomplishment. This bustling and strategically significant port handled an incredible 16.1 million metric tons (MMT) of Cargo in October, breaking previous records. This achievement is evidence of Mundra Port’s effectiveness and vital role in promoting global trade.

Breaking Down the Record

The flagship port of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. (APSEZ), Mundra Port, broke all previous records in October by moving 16.1 million metric tons (MMT) of Cargo—the most ever handled by any port in India.

The largest port in the nation, Mundra Port, surpassed the record of 231 days set last year by crossing the 100 MMT threshold in 210 days, according to a statement from APSEZ. The statement said that Mundra had double-digit growth in containers (+10%) and liquids and gas (+14%) year-on-year.

Another significant accomplishment was handling 4.2 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in only 203 days, compared to 225 days in the preceding fiscal year. According to the announcement, it expanded its range to include new cargo categories such as Hydrolysis Pi Gas (HPG).

Year to date (YTD) has serviced over 11,500 rakes and parked over 2,480 ships. The announcement states that the port plans to reach a 200 MMT milestone in cargo volumes in FY25. Mundra Port has the capacity to maintain a deep draft, making it suitable for handling big ships.

In the future, Mundra Port hopes to surpass the noteworthy benchmark of 200 MMT in cargo volumes by the end of the fiscal year 25. The port’s capacity to sustain a deep draft makes it a hub fit for managing big ships. MV MSC Hamburg, one of the biggest ships ever, was successfully berthed in Mundra Port in July 2023. Measuring 399 meters in length and 54 meters in breadth, the ship can transport 15,908 TEUs and has a reported draft of 12 meters.

Types of Cargo Mundra Handles

It’s important to fully comprehend the kinds of cargo Mundra Port handles to appreciate its accomplishment’s significance. The port’s adaptability and capacity to serve various industries, including industry, agriculture, energy, and more, are demonstrated by its variety of goods.

Containerized Cargo is an essential part of Mundra Port’s business, which covers anything from apparel to electronics. It facilitates the easy movement of commodities to and from international markets, bolstering India’s expanding import and export industry.

Bulk Cargo, coal, grain, and mineral bulk Cargo comprise a sizable portion of the port’s operations. India’s power-generating, agriculture, and industrial sectors depend on Mundra Port’s expertise in handling bulk Cargo.

Liquid Cargo, which comprises chemicals and petroleum products, is essential to the nation’s ability to meet its industrial and energy demands. Mundra Port’s effective management of liquid Cargo supports India’s industrial development and energy security.

The Future of Mundra Port

The accomplishment of Mundra Port in October indicates a dedication to steady expansion and advancement. The port has added additional berths and cutting-edge machinery and made significant investments in enlarging its infrastructure. Mundra Port‘s commitment to improvement is evidence of its potential contribution to India’s economic growth in the future.

Given India’s ambition to become a worldwide center for trade and manufacturing, it is impossible to overestimate the significance of effective ports like Mundra. Mundra Port’s unparalleled capabilities position it to meet the constantly expanding trade demands and enhance India’s standing in the international arena.

Conclusion

In addition to being a tremendous accomplishment for the port, Mundra Port’s record-breaking cargo output in October 2023 marks an important turning point in India’s development, becoming a major economic force globally. Mundra Port will continue to be an essential component of India’s trade and commerce as it grows and innovates, enabling the flow of products that fuel its development. This unprecedented success is evidence of the port’s abilities and unwavering dedication to quality.

Empowering Women to Empower Family, Society & Nation

Imagine living an invisible life — one that remains unnoticed and unheard no matter what you do or what your contributions are for the good of the family or the community. You have a name but no identity. Your countless hours of work are not only not recognized but most often also go unpaid.

Women comprise half the population of the world and still fight for their rights. How do we bridge this gap so that women’s rights are recognized and respected? A nation develops only if its citizens, especially women, develop and are given space to grow. Even the Human Development Index (HDI), which the UN uses to gauge each nation’s level of individual human development, emphasizes that people and their capacities — rather than just economic growth — should be the criterion for evaluating the level of development.

When we educate a woman, we educate a family, the society and the nation. Education opens channels for gainful employment, which empowers women and gives expression to their opinions. At the core of the Adani Foundation’s vision is empowering women so that they know their worth; they know their right to choose and to determine those choices; they know their right to have access to opportunities and resources; they know their right to have power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home, and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order.

In this context, education, training, increasing awareness, building self-confidence, expansion of choices, increased access to and control over resources, and actions to transform the structures and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender discrimination and inequality are important tools for empowering women and girls to claim their rights. The Adani Foundation has charted its own course in over two decades and has been relentlessly working for the upliftment of the marginalized, women and weaker sections of society.

Be it Fathima Begum of a small village in Tamil Nadu or Soga Mary of Muthukuru village in Nellore, the Foundation has helped channelize their strengths and empower them. “We were invisible and didn’t have a voice until our work began to speak for us,” says Fathima, whose shopping bags, lunch and chocolate boxes, mats, trays, etc., made from palm leaves abundantly available in her coastal village have many buyers today. Ask Soga Mary, who took the reins of her life when things came to a dead end and started her own enterprise of bamboo craft. She not only supports her autorickshaw driver husband in running their household but also makes a good profit that enables her to save for her future.

The Foundation strives to create sustainable opportunities to promote self-reliance through gainful livelihoods for women either through self-help groups (SHGs) or creating a pipeline of talent by providing training at its Adani Skill Development Centres or a pool of health volunteers at the village level to create awareness of health and hygiene.