Gautam Adani has survived a terrorist attack and alleged kidnapping in his 56 years of life. He is a high school dropout who went on to build one of the most successful businesses in India and became a billionaire in the process. Now, the eccentric billionaire is looking to open a coal mine in Australia after weathering, as you can imagine, one heck of a political storm to earn the rights to do so. Environmental protests have hobbled his plans for nine years. Now, he's got the final word of approval from the powers that be in Queensland. The coal mine is slated to be the largest in Australia, and possibly the world, with an output of 2.3 billion tons expected in the next 60 years. But that's just the latest news about Adani. What's really interesting about him is the path he took to get to this point. Adani predicts that by 2020, his businesses will be worth $20 billion. Right now, Adani has a net worth of $5.9 billion.
Adani comes from modest beginnings – which is rare in India's class-based system. As a teenager, Adani left his hometown of Gujarat in northwest India to make his way in the big city of Mumbai. He thought his fortunes laid in the diamond trade, but instead, he found himself heading back home in 1981 to work in his brother's plastics business. It was there that he began to build his fortune. He brokered an international deal with a Korean business and parlayed that into an import-export business called Adani Enterprises.
His secret to success was simple. Earn a small amount in one business, then take on heavy debts against its income to finance the expansion of another business. It is a strategy Adani has used again and again over the years to great success. Eventually, it allowed him to fund the world's largest privately-held coal power station as well as India's largest private port in Mundra, Gujarat.
It's easy sailing these days for Adani and his dentist wife, Priti. But back in 1997, the couple faced a serious threat. Adani was kidnapped and held for ransom. Media reported that he was not released until $3 million was paid to his kidnappers. Eight men were accused in his abduction but were eventually acquitted by the courts.
This isn't the only hair raising incident in Adani's life. On November 26, 2008, Adani was having dinner at the Taj hotel in Mumbai when it became the target of a terrorist attack. Adani hid in the basement of the hotel as armed men killed more than 160 people inside.
This year, Adani Enterprises is set to overtake Tata, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, as India's largest private power producer. Adani opened his first power station just 10 years ago.
Construction of the Carmichael mine is set to begin soon now that plans have been approved by the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science. Conservationists are worried about the effect the project, which includes a dam, will have on the region's groundwater as wells as the nearby Great Barrier Reef. Adani plans for his mine to be operational by 2021.