The Rise and rice

The rise and rise of Gautam Adani

From a college dropout and diamond sorter to a key driver of India’s economic growth, Mr Gautam Adani is one of the richest people in the world. The entrepreneurial journey of this invincible and resilient man began over three decades ago.

He divides his professional journey into four phases, as told to India Today magazine, tracing it back to the tenure of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who liberalised the Exim policy (export-import policy); following this, for the first time, several items were brought under the OGL (open general license) list. This helped Mr Gautam Adani start his export house. He says that it was because of Rajiv Gandhi that his journey as an entrepreneur took off.

He links the second phase of his journey to 1991, when former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh brought in sweeping economic reforms. Like many other entrepreneurs, he, too, was a beneficiary of those reforms.

The third turning point came in 1995 when Keshubhai Patel was sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister. Until then, all development in Gujarat centered around NH 8 from Mumbai to Delhi via cities like Vapi, Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Silvassa, Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad. Keshubhai was a visionary and focused on coastal development – and it was that policy change that took Mr Gautam Adani to Mundra and prompted him to build his first port. The rest, as they say, is history.

The fourth phase of his business growth came in 2011 when Gujarat witnessed a massive focus on development under then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. His policies and their implementation went on to not only change the economic landscape of the state but also brought about social transformation and development of previously under-developed areas. It also allowed industries and employment to take-off like never before.


In just 30 years, Mr Gautam Adani has built an infrastructure behemoth. His rise from being the son of a textile merchant and being a college dropout to one of the richest men in the world has had its share of challenges on multiple fronts – from mining operations to power projects and alleged violation of SEZ norms in Mundra. But every time the man rose stronger. His reputation came under attack by the short-seller Hindenburg in early 2023 but the Adani Group showed its resilience and clawed back to again emerge on top.  

1981: Aged 19 returns from Bombay to help brother in the plastics business

1988: Starts a commodity trading firm. Turnover: Rs 2.2 crore

1989: Expands into export and import on a wider canvas

1992: Cargill and Adani sign JV with Gujarat at Mundra for salt exports. Cargill walks out, Adani stays on. Turnover: Rs 150 crore

1995: Mundra Port construction happens

1998: First ship docks at Mundra

1999: Starts coal trading. Turnover: Rs 2,853 crore

2000: Adani Enterprises is the largest trading house in the private sector. Turnover: Rs 3,300 crore

2006: Adani is India’s largest coal importer

2008: Bunyu coal mine in Indonesia is its first overseas purchase

2009: Starts power generation

2011: Buys Galilee mines and Abbot Point Port in Australia

2012: Becomes India’s largest single-location power producer

2013: Mundra is India’s largest port

2014-2022: By December 2022, Mr Gautam Adani’s wealth was Rs 18,64,579 crore

2023: In January, U.S. short-seller Hindenburg accused Adani of “pulling the largest con in corporate history”. In just a couple of weeks, Mr Gautam Adani’s wealth dropped by $71.5 billion

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) made their first monthly buying of 2023 in March with an inflow of ₹7,936 crore in Indian equities. The near-term outlook of FY24 looks positive for FPIs as the high valuation of Indian markets has corrected significantly

24 April: Three months after the Hindenburg report, Adani Ports starts $130 million buyback of debt securities

June 2023: At the end of the June quarter, the Group, through a series of strategic initiatives, increased its liquidity position at the portfolio level to finish with a cash balance of Rs 42,115 crore. The portfolio companies focus on bolstering their financial standing, ensuring a robust foundation for their ambitious projects.

November 2023: U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announces that it will fund Colombo West International Terminal Pvt. Ltd. (CWIT) – a consortium of India’s largest port operator Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd., Sri Lanka’s leading enterprise John Keells Holdings (JKH) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority – to the tune of USD 553 million.

Time and again, Adani has proved his detractors and naysayers wrong. Even Hindenburg’s report failed to dent his reputation as an industrialist whose business acumen has helped to modernize India. With 10 listed companies, his sprawling empire focuses on everything from airports (7), train lines and ports (14 ports/terminals in India, one in Israel and one under-construction in Colombo) to data centers, green energy, coal mining, cement, and the media.