Commodity prices will shoot up because demand is good: Anil Agarwal

Thomas K Thomas |Suresh P. Iyengar | | Updated on: May 03, 2022
Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Resources

Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Resources | Photo Credit: Kesavan A N 1612@Chennai

Vedanta Resources Chairman Anil Agarwal maps the company’s future in the face of a macroeconomic slowdown

Metal, mining and energy conglomerate Vedanta is investing close to $20 billion over the next few years to not only scale up existing businesses but also enter new areas such as semiconductor manufacturing. In an interaction with Business Line, Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Resources, shares his thoughts on the way ahead for the company amid the overall macroeconomic slowdown.

Has the Russian-Ukraine war and subsequent impact on global economy impacted your bullish sentiment on the India growth story?

War is never good for anyone. They can resolve everything through dialogue. However, in this geo-political development India has emerged as a sweet spot. Every country has imposed sanction on Russia and nobody wants to do business with China. America has been looking for alternative source of supply. Both India and Indian people are in favour. Indians have become trustworthy partners in every field. Unfortunately, India does not have big capacity to supply the world. For instance, 95 per cent of shipping here is done by foreign companies. Nowhere else in the world is it ilike this. It is because we do not have enough shipping capacity. Of the overall imports, natural resources import accounts for 65 per cent despite India having everything. There is huge potential. How do we tap it is the question. The Government has rightly come with digital system, so that there is no delay in the process. India is the only country to have 20 per cent young population. For India, time is of essence. India has all the potential to become a developed country.

Do you see the inflationary trend on metals easing anytime soon?

Commodity prices will shoot up because there is a good demand from renewable energy and EV (electric vehicle) projects. Metal consumption will grow by eight times. All the metals including copper, aluminium and silver will grow big time. India has all the potential and cannot depend on imports. Government policies should be very simple. Exploration is very important. Above the ground we have done well but below the ground is everything. Only thing is, foreigners do not want us to produce. They want to make India a market.

Vedanta has shown interest in acquiring PSUs including BPCL and Shipping Corporation. Does the delay in divestment worry you?

We believe in what the Prime Minister says... that Government has no business to be in business. Then the execution is in the hands of machinery and they slow down. In these kinds of delay, other corporates would have run out of the country but we are like a normal bahu (daughter-in-law) of an Indian family in the village. For few years, we have to undergo the pain. When I got married, I could not talk to my wife in the daytime for years because she was in the shadow of my mother. That was the culture but she tolerated and worked hard to reach a different position today. But this culture is changing with the emergence of start-ups, fintech and digital era.

Is the $10-billion fund you created for acquiring government assets getting interest from investors?

Yes, there is a lot of interest but we cannot do anything with it. There is nothing on the privatisation pipeline.

Goa mining has been banned for four years now...

The Goa mining ban issue is in the Supreme Court. Both the state and central governments want to resume mining but they are waiting for the Supreme Court verdict. It is really unfortunate. India cannot afford to stop work. We need to keep the operations on and take course correction, because so much is at stake including people, employment and investment. If production is stopped, inflation goes up, imports increase and people lose their job.

How do you see the progress of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), given that your bid to acquire Videocon has hit a wall ?

For doing business in India, you need to have a lot of patience. In India, there is a saying that the father starts and the son executes it. IBC should be faster. About 300 companies have transferred hands. This number could have been much higher if the process had been faster, because keeping the asset idle is not good. Whatever money comes is fine. Recovery should not be equated with the replacement value and write-offs, leading to unnecessary controversies.

On the semiconductor business, have you decided the location for it?

We have appointed a consultant, who is going to multiple states. Within 60 days we will have a plan.

Published on May 03, 2022
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