The Boss

Gautam Adani

The Adani group chairman is a consummate leader who backs his people when push comes to shove

Photographs by Soumik Kar

Education: College dropout Career: As a teenager, came to Mumbai in 1978 and started working as a diamond sorter. Three years later, ventured into diamond broking. In 1982, went back to Gujarat to run a small PVC film manufacturing facility bought by his elder brother. In 1985, started imports business, primarily polymers for small-scale industries. In 1991, set up full-fledged trading house and expanded into trading of metals, textiles, and agro products. In 1995, set up the first jetty, the stepping stone towards a full-fledged ports business. In 2005, converted entire marshy land originally allocated for salt works into SEZ. In 2006, entered the power-generation business. Between 2009 and 2012, acquired mining assets (Carmichael coal in Queensland) and Abbot Point Port in Australia.

Sometime in 1999, a group of top Adani Port executives, along with founder Gautam Adani, made their way to a berth at the Mundra port in Gujarat to witness a unique experiment conceived by an enterprising port employee. The experiment was the outcome of a discussion around floating barges and how these could ensure that high waves don’t hit the berths, which meant that ships could dock at the port for a longer period. This would ensure more working days and turnaround time for loading and unloading cargo. While a permanent barge would have cost hundreds of crores, the employee concerned came up with the idea of a floating barge anchored by large pontoons (floatation devices) about 50 m in length and 20 m in width.

The pontoons, half-filled with water, would be anchored so that they could float and break the waves that lashed the port. After a detailed technical study and mathematical modelling, the employee had come up with this innovative idea, which cost the company about ₹4 crore. On D-day, as a small crowd peered into the sea from the berth, one by one, all the pontoons were anchored. When the last pontoon was anchored, the floating barge came into view. The employee was excited to see his idea finally turn into reality. 

But the thrill didn’t last for long: within minutes, the pontoons started crashing into each other as the waves came in with a vengeance. Over a span of two hours, the entire barge sank to the bottom of the sea as water seeped into the punctured pontoo

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