Gautam Adani is clearly a man who doesn’t shy away from taking risks. The tycoon and eponymous founder of the Adani Group has grown the company he established in 1988 to trade commodities into one of India’s leading businesses with interests in the resources, logistics and energy industries. After less than 30 years in operation, today the Adani Group has revenues verging on US$10 billion.
It’s a characteristic the man at the helm of the Adani Group’s flagship company, Adani Enterprises, has reason to be thankful for. “I became CEO of Adani Enterprises 8 years ago, when I was 35,” says Vinay Prakash, a mechanical engineering graduate who has been with the company for 16 years in total. “I’m the youngest professional CEO in the history of the Adani Group. All credit goes to Gautam Adani for what I’ve achieved. In fact, what we’ve achieved, as it was a courageous decision to appoint someone so young.”
This very belief in its talent is what Vinay attributes the success of the Adani Group to. “The Adani family gives you full empowerment.” For an organisation in the resources business, it’s obvious that its most important resource of all is people. “The human being is our most critical resource,” he says. “We’ve started changing the term HR to HHR, which stands for ‘healthy human resources’ — not just in the physical sense, but also emotional wellbeing as well.”
An advocate of achieving balance between one’s professional and personal life, Vinay says he’s “a firm believer that we only succeed when we’re happy. If you believe that the work you’re doing is actually giving you happiness, you’ll always give 100%.” The respect he holds for those he works with is obvious.
“The fun of this business is that I don’t lead followers, I lead leaders.” – Vinay Prakash
“The fun of this business is that I don’t lead followers; I lead leaders. As a CEO, I actually prefer recognising and working with someone smarter than me in the business,” he continues. “It means it’s not only the leaders who are driving and deciding everything, with the rest simply following. It means a lot of the ideas come from within the team. What can be accomplished together lies at the core of his leadership philosophy. One thing that’s very clear in my thinking is that, as an individual, I cannot achieve all big things alone. I can walk for 10 miles but, if the goal is 100 miles, I need to at least have a replacement to walk in my place. That’s very simple mathematics. You can’t get one person to achieve everything. There has to be a team.”
Today, Vinay and his colleagues have a very clear direction. “All the activities we’re involved in as a business must lead towards building our nation.” This involves responding to challenges set by the government. “Our honourable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, wants India to have complete energy security. With that thought in mind, he’s set a target for the production of coal mining to increase from where it is currently, at 600 million metric ton per annum, to reach 1,200 million metric ton per annum by 2020. This presents a big opportunity for a private company like the Adani Group,” he enthuses, “to invest in mining activity and produce results that will actually help the Indian government.”
Adani Enterprises is already India’s largest coal trader, with 34% of the domestic market share.The company also supplies coal to China and has mining interests in India, Indonesia and Australia. In addition to its trading and mining activities, it is a significant name in the bunkering business (“Our market share is 41% with the potential for much more,” Vinay says) and renewable energy sector, and it has subsidiary companies involved in gas distribution and agriculture.
Vinay acknowledges that, like all companies with interests in the mining sector, it faces a constant image battle. “At any climate change summit, there is the inevitable discussion surrounding coal as the villain which is harming the environment,” he says. “So we’re working with various technology firms to see how we can reduce our environmental impact.”
The company already has numerous initiatives in place. “Every tree of 60-centimetre circumference in size is relocated and, once a mining program is finished, we reclaim the area, making sure it’s immediately coated with geotextile before we start the reforestation process. We’ve already replanted more than 140,000 trees.”
He strives towards a positive scorecard where the number of trees replanted will outweigh the number of trees uprooted. “I constantly challenge my young guys to show me how we can be responsible green miners,” he says.
It’s evident that Vinay cultivates a vibrant work environment where every member’s input is sought and valued. “If I’ve learned one lesson across my professional career, it’s that communication is crucial.
You need to share your ideas but also be prepared to listen. Communication cannot be one sided. When you speak with others, you unleash a lot of great ideas. When I talk about my employees, I see that my young guys are taking more responsibilities. The attrition rate has been close to zero across the 16 years since I’ve been here. VinThat’s a major success.” It’s a statistic which Vinay is very proud of. “When your aspiration, the company aspiration and the nation’s aspirations are aligned, that’s the best way to achieve the best results.”