He also spoke on various other matters like his vision for Vedanta Group, the Tata Sons-Cyrus Mistry feud, philanthropy, his love for idli and dosa, and how he would have liked to spend more time with his kids.
Below is the verbatim transcript of Anil Agarwal’s interview to Kritika Saxena on CNBC-TV18.
Q: There has been a lot for you this year, there has been a lot for corporate India this year. As we start a new year and as we finish the last one year, tell me how has the last one year been for you?
A: It was different because new government and what a positive note of this government and we could do what we wanted to do because of the positiveness of this government and it is nice. Overall I feel very good. Going forward I feel and the whole world feels very good about India and this is a very special Diwali and I am looking forward continue to eradicate poverty out of the country and create job for our people. I am looking forward that will happen.
Q: The mandate of the new government has been development, has been kicking start growth, has been inching up growth from the 6-7 percent – your vision has been 9-10 percent in terms of GDP and you have maintained that you want to contribute in that. From the lessons you have learnt in the last one year, in the coming new year as we begin Diwali what is your vision, how can you contribute to reaching that 9-10 percent growth level?
A: I want to maintain what I have been saying that we have been very focused on above the ground. Agriculture we have done tremendous. The time has come where we see below the ground, to mother earth. It is a time whereby we import 85 percent of oil, most of the gold. We are going to import 20 lakh tonne of copper in two years and everything of natural resource what we have, we have all that. I must tell you, there is a publication whereby it shows that we have a better geology than China and even if you see the world comparison of Australia and North America, compared to them we have only done 3 percent of exploration against them which they do 73 percent. So, it is a great opportunity for India to look at because today technology is phenomenal. Today’s technology is amazing for geology, for exploration, for mining, for oil and gas, it is a different level. If that happens, I am looking forward whereby SMEs, SME is the need of hour.
Q: SME and startups are in a way something that it takes a soft place for you in your heart. What is it that you can do and what is it that Vedanta can do in the next coming year to be able to inch up and give that opportunity to these players?
A: I am very keen to create aluminium park. We will supply the aluminium, I am ready to create the copper park, whatever we produce, SMEs can come, SMEs can setup, we can guarantee them, government is very keen, banks will be very keen, they are in different mode. Nowadays banks I can see the kind of — even the public sector bank is calling, they are looking, they are regenerating what has happened in the past. So, Vedanta will go all out. One is we will be very focused on natural resource, my focus is at least 10-20 companies like Vedanta to come up. It is the time whereby we need USD 10 billion company, USD 20 billion company and I am looking – this is a country of Indian entrepreneur, this is a country entrepreneur has done everything what government wanted whether it is port, airport, telecom company, steel company, anything government has interested, they have given the world class. As the government is looking, as they open up looking forward, this is a country of entrepreneur, this is a country where we need a strong governance from the government but to allow entrepreneurs to build India and that is how it will create 1.5-2 percent GDP extra what our Prime Minister wants and which is going to happen.
Q: As we begin a new year what do you think what more can be done by the government, what more can be done and how can private players like yourself actually help and contribute in that process?
A: Government is very keen to ease of doing business and we can see it is happening.
Q: Do you believe they have done enough in the last one year?
A: The process is on. I see the change in all the top official of the government. They are the heart.
Q: Hindustan Zinc you spoke about at last time, since then till now there has been a lot of talk about how the government is now opening up, will you be the buyer then? Are you keen on ensuring that as and when they are ready to sell will you be able to pick it up?
A: See why not we have created value.
Q: Have conversation gone forward with the government and you are looking at buying out their stake?
A: As far as my stake is concern whenever they are ready I have no idea. I have idea that government is very positive. They are looking to encash this, because keeping the minority share has no meaning. As and when they do it we will come and we will look at and if there is a viable we will go, but whenever they come, whenever they are ready we will be ready.
Q: The issue that has happened at Tata Group one of the most respectable group is a concern, is plaguing corporate India at this point in time. What was your reaction when you heard the split?
A: Because there are two level; one is the company level, company level I see the TCS, I see the Tata Motors, I see the amazing stalwart who is governing the Tata Steel and they are running their company well. I don’t think they will continue to be focus there and they will take it different level. I am saying as a layman. I am a good well wisher of the Tata Group. What has happened I was away, I was not aware but for me both are most competent. Ratan Tata has a name by itself in the world and Cyrus Mistry whenever I met him he come across very, very nice person, very passionate about the company.
So what transpired, how thing will happen, but my feeling is the company will not affected. People are concerned, but company will not affected.
Q: As someone who has watched the corporate industry for so long, who has watched this group. You message to investors would be to not panic.
A: Absolutely, there is no question of panic.
Q: You don’t think that group companies should get concerned about the problems on the promoter?
A: I can tell you there is so much of confidence for India Inc in the investor mind.
Q: When the foreign investor community, when the institutional investor, when the retail investor community talks about the government and reforms. Despite GST, despite lot of reforms actually coming out there still is a lot of criticism. What do you think is the reason for that? Are we as a community too impatient?
A: It is a democracy country and if we go to America, we and America is quite similar. Their always be a critic. Our prime ministers has said several times that he is not worried about critic. It is nice to be critic, but we are on in the right track.
Q: In the last 10 years you have waited to consolidate the group to expand yet create a broader entity and I think it is now being implemented and you have reached there. What next, what is the broader vision that you have be it CSR, be it humanities, be it broader growth, be it the consolidation of the company, be it new businesses? What’s the next mission?
A: I feel very sorry when we import 85 percent of oil. I feel very sorry when we import most of the gold and you have seen every time whether it is Hindustan Zinc or Cairn or Sesa Goa any of the company I put my heart and soul bring the best of technology, I put lot of money as a FDI from outside and to create a great example how with the most environmental friendly manner, keeping the highest standard if I can be part of anything which can create job I am looking forward.
Q: And Vedanta is going to be the forward?
A: Vedanta is a company which is a social entrepreneur and we are looking at this company very transparent. It is for the people, for the country and company like this many company are required which will be natural resource, we are one of the highest taxpayer company in the country.
Q: In context to that what was the contribution to exchequer because I believe that in the last one year it has been significant?
A: We have paid one of the highest Rs 35,000 crore and I am looking when my production goes on peak I will be paying almost Rs 1 lakh crore.
Q: You have been contributing to CSR, you have been contributing actively to the entire social sector. How much have you been able to spent, what is the contribution, what is Vedanta’s vision there?
A: One is a Vedanta which we are governing 2 percent of income tax government to put in and we are very consciously doing it. One is that most of my wealth will go back to the society. I have already pledged that. We are working towards that and I am very keen that today in country that 8 crore children age of up to 6-7 years and we have a 2 crore women with their need to be independent. They need to be get something in their hand, some economical reform so I am working towards that and most of my wealth will go for 3 thing; children, women and creating one of the best university, world best university possible like Harvard or anywhere is a think tank.
In Odisha which we are working and this is how I am looking I can’t do everything, but remaining focus on our prime minister vision to work towards that and for that I am very keen that 13 lakh anganwadi which we are changing the name, putting the name Nand Ghar, 13 lakh Nand Ghar to rehabilitate them being very modern, scientific, innovative a Nand Ghar which can be huge with this they have a solar, they have a TV, they have a drinking water, they have a better food. In the health check up we can do the education through the TV to the children, in the afternoon we can develop the women empowerment so they can learn lot of thing. They can be entrepreneur and that’s how we are looking to develop this Nand Ghar. I am very keen, we are going ahead and hopefully we will build this in a couple of years’ time.
Q: If I could ask how much have you pledged, how much of your wealth?
A: 75 percent of my wealth will go back to the society and I am very pleased such a diwali day, I am so excited. We have a passion to work, we have a skill to work and that is what we are using and the wealth come must go back to the society.