Oct 10, 2008

Lakshmi Mittal Cold Steeled.


I picked up the book ColdSteel from a colleague of mine, and I turned to the backcover. What I saw next immediately got me spending the next few hours researching the man behind the face that had a furios flame burning in orange and the words were that of an Indian. A very powerful Indian.

"This is Lakshmi Mittal. As a matter of courtesy, I am calling to tell you that tomorrow I will mount a public offer to your shareholders to take over your company" - Lakshmi Mittal to Guy Dole.
Here was another supremely interesting business character who raked in raw power. He was also a mentor of many people I knew. Whenever someone can show such a ballsy attitude in public, I knew that this was one of the other entreprenuers I would admire, so I set to read everything I could on Lakshmi Mittal. I haven't finished the book yet but I couldn't wait to share what I spent reading about him.

Who is Lakshmi Mittal?

Lakshmi Mittal, LNM for short, was born in western Rajasthan. Mittal was born in an obscure village that did not even have electricity and his beginnings were simple. Later on, his family moved to Calcutta. In 1970, he graduated from the prestigious St Xavier's College specialising in Commercial Studies. He has often been praised as a very astute learner who topped his studies in college. It seems, he was ready to take up professorship at the university but was repulsed by the fact that the person he was reporting to stated, "you have to be at work at 6 am sharp from tomorrow". He decided to leave that and pursue his dad's business. Mohan Lal, who ran a small family-owned steel mill was also a budding entreprenuer and accepted his son into his company as a trainee.

Lakshmi Mittal, is a person who is astute in the nature of business. He buys out run out mills, remodels them and turns them into profit centers. That is something many could have thought up but few could have executed. And he did this in an industry that is termed dry, steel. While the dotcom boom is the rage and online companies are the way to go, here is the 4th richest man in the world doing what he does best. Much respect.
Inspired by this but splitting away completely in a business sense from his father in the mid-1970s, Mittal slowly made his own way in the industry. He developed from a small plant in Indonesia, before moving into Europe in the 1980s, central Asia in the mid-1990s and the US in 1998 through the acquisition of Inland Steel. Today, Arcelor-Mittal has plants on six continents and more than 300,000 employees.

Qualities of Mittal.

His values, Mittal says, boil down to hard work, a global approach, surrounding himself with capable and loyal people, and relying on his family for advice. Stories have it that he didn't hesitate to decline an invitation to a party to honour UK's wealthiest Asians. Mittal, who was too busy tying up a deal in Chicago, decided to pass on the invitation extended by none other by the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Lakshmi Mittal is ambitious and packs a tough interior on that soft indian broken english exterior. The zeal to be the best in whatever he does perhaps comes from his disciplined lifestyle. Mittal, who does an hour of yoga every day, says he owes a lot to his Asian roots. "Being an Indian is a real advantage . . . you learn a lot about bridging differences and reaching compromises when you grow up in a country with over 300 languages and ethnic groups."

In an interview with Simi Garewal, his wife Usha Mittal talks about Mittal.

SG: Usha tell me, you've known him best. Did you see earlier on some signs in him which would show, you know, prove his later achievements, his later greatness.

Usha: Four months after we got married, he had to give his exam and I saw his determination at that time. And that impressed me greatly. And I still see the same determination in his work. He's very intelligent and he can see things in advance.

So how did success change things? Lakshmi Mittal's wealth.
You see, success bring more success and more opportunities and more challenges. That's one change. And in the personal life, you gain more confidence, you gain more strength. You want to do something better all the time.

His first success story was in 1989 when he bought Trinidad and Tobago's steel facility, which was losing one million dollars a day. Within a year after its purchase, Mittal doubled the output and made the business profitable. His secret of success is a combination of technological vision and good managerial sense. Despite his remarkable rise, Mittal is known for maintaining a low-profile. Britain's wealthiest Asian, is also its eighth richest citizen. His house costs 57 million pounds, that he bought from F1 owner a couple of years back. Mittal's house in Kensington, London is decorated with marble taken from the same quarry that supplied the Taj Mahal. The extravagant show of wealth has been deemed the "Taj Mittal".


I can't claim his buying a house to be extravagant, his daughter's marriage is another affair though. Much talked about though and I think that was an over kill. To have a wedding in Paris, fly the guests in a private jet and then call over a gala event starring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai (because his daughter enjoyed her movies.) (.............) is a wtf throwing off the eyeballs up in the air, but it's his only daughter and the last one to get wed in the family so I guess that's ok.

The neighbours to his house on Bishop's Avenue include the Sultan of Brunei and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. In an interview with Financial Times Mittal states, "The biggest happiness I felt in my life was the day in 1980 when I had my first $1m in the bank, a result of the Indonesian business. After that, everything has become normal. Fundamentally I have not changed, I still remain the same person who still has the same values, whether it is the family values or work values. Nothing changed in my lifestyle or in my business approach."

Like Warren Buffet, he's another person who enjoys Diet Coke. Here's to India Rising and one of the foreleaders that we can look up to.



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