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Adani: from nowhere in the 2000s to the world’s third richest after 2014

Adani: from nowhere in the 2000s to the world’s third richest after 2014

It was the Ambanis, Tatas, and Birlas who were known as Indian billionaires in the 2000s. Gautam Adani's name was not familiar during that period; although he had made a good fortune, it was not at par with the Ambanis.

But how did Adani become one of the world's richest people, surpassing even the Ambanis in India and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in the world, to claim the second spot in the world's richest ranking? A question worth probing as it may inspire millions of Indians to pursue their own path to becoming billionaires.

Everyone knows Dhirubhai Ambani made his fortune with hard work before handing it over to his two sons, and his rise from hardship is being taught in business schools across the country. Mukesh Ambani had put his effort only to develop the fortune that he inherited, while Anil Ambani appeared to have lost in maintaining the wealth.

Anyhow, both Ambanis along with other billionaires in the 2000s then were known as corporates; though Adani had his own place in the market, he was not as popular as Ambanis, who became household names for wealth in India.

The Mukesh Ambani Legacy

Mukesh Ambani, the Indian business magnate and chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, has been one of the richest people in the world for many years. In 2013, Mukesh Ambani was ranked as the 22nd richest person in the world by Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $21.5 billion. In 2012, he was ranked as the 19th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $22.3 billion.

Prior to 2012, Mukesh Ambani had consistently been ranked among the top 50 richest people in the world by Forbes, although his exact ranking varied from year to year depending on his net worth. But Mukesh Ambani's fortune made a sudden spurt after 2014, enabling him to climb the ladder from the 19th richest to a place in the top five of the world's richest list.

The Adani Legacy

In February 2022, Adani became the wealthiest person in Asia as the share prices of Adani Group's numerous Indian-listed companies skyrocketed. Several of Adani's companies were included in Forbes' ranking of the 2,000 largest publicly traded companies in the world earlier this year, including holding company Adani Enterprises, transportation giant Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone, renewable energy provider Adani Green Energy, utility company Adani Transmission, and natural gas giant Adani Total Gas.

Adani's net worth exceeded $100 billion in April 2022, and he surpassed American Investor Warren Buffet later that month to claim the fifth spot on the world's richest list. In July, Adani moved ahead of Bill Gates and earlier that week overtook Jeff Bezos to become the third richest man.

The Land Leasing System

In Kerala, there used to be a system where those who had money could borrow farmland from landowners for a certain period. In exchange, the tenant could use the entire land and produce whatever they wished, on the condition that they owe a certain percentage of the produce to the landowner. Sometimes, the landowner puts the land up for auction to get a good bidder who can make better offers.

If we examine our political system, we can find a similar system in the works. In a democracy, it is often said that people are the owners of the country, and they bestow the right to run the country on selected individuals among them. It is important to note that these elected individuals are not supposed to impose their own wishes upon the people but are expected to run the country according to the collective wishes of the people. This is what we call democracy. Unlike autocracy or monarchy, in a democracy, it is the people who have the ultimate authority to choose the person or party to run their country.

The authority that comes with the people is called the right to vote, and here we can assume an election to be like an auction. The corporates that have good fortunes or could make better offers put forth their representatives or parties to win the auction known as an election. Those who turn out to be good bidders gain the right to run the country on a lease it for five years.

During these five years, the entire country is given to the winning bidder to use the land and produce whatever the corporate bidder wishes, in exchange for sharing a certain portion of the production with the landowner, which is the people. The winner can use the land, roads, air, sea, and all-natural resources, such as petrol and natural gas, to enlarge their wealth for a period of five years.

The leasing-out system described above reveals how corporates can amass their fortunes. Elections have become corporate power plays everywhere in the world. Major corporates invest in people or political parties who can represent them in the auction to win the country for lease.

Adani in the Indian Parliament

The name of Gautam Adani and his conglomerate has been in the media intensely after an American firm, Hindenburg, released a report alleging that the Adani Group manipulated companies' shares to show inflated values while those companies were running on heavy loans from major banks in the world.

Recently, Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the Indian National Congress, questioned the ties between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Adani Group in Parliament. In a press meeting held a day after he was stripped of his Parliament membership over a defamation conviction, he said he strongly believed that he was disqualified because PM Modi is scared to face questions on his ties with corporate Adani. Rahul Gandhi reiterated that the country should know who owns Rs 2,000 crore which is with Adani.

PM Modi and Adani Connection

In 2018, the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to hand over six major airports in the country to private players with a view to enhancing the quality of services to an international level. Although it had eased norms to make room for companies with no experience, when Gautam Adani emerged as the winner for the six airports, many frowned at the decision due to his lack of experience.

Overnight, Adani became one of the country's biggest private airport operators, including the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, prompting the Kerala state finance minister to call out the procedure as an "act of brazen cronyism" and an example of the Central government's favouritism towards politically connected tycoons.

Adani then became the largest private port operator and thermal coal power producer. He commands a growing share of India's power transmission and gas distribution markets, and this year announced that his renewables arm, Adani Green Energy, would invest $6bn to build solar plants with a capacity of 8GW, one of the largest renewables projects in the world.

Modi and Adani have had a close relationship for over 20 years. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi's links with Adani helped him become the pro-business face of modern economic progress, while Adani received favourable concessions on tax and regulation, allowing him to become extremely wealthy.

After Modi won the 2014 election, he often travelled with Adani, who owns a significant number of ports and valuable land. Accusations of fraud and tax evasion have swirled around Adani, but he denies receiving preferential treatment. That remaining so, Adani’s personal wealth has grown significantly; however, many of his projects have faced protests for environmental damage and displacement of communities.

Modi is accused of aiding Adani in obtaining profitable contracts for coal and renewable energy initiatives in neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka too. Adani's significant investment in India's coal sector has been connected to India's continued reliance on coal. This trend also raises questions about the Indian government's commitment to decarbonization.

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TAGS:Adani GroupNarendra ModiGautam Adani
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