Over the course of his 56 years, billionaire Gautam Adani has survived a terror attack and an alleged kidnapping.
He dropped out of high school only to forge one of India’s most successful businesses and become one of the subcontinent’s wealthiest men.
Now the self-made man can say he has weathered the mother of political storms, with his proposed mammoth Australian coal mine on the cusp of becoming reality.
The mining magnate’s Carmichael mine received the final tick of approval from Queensland’s environment bureaucrats last Thursday.
Mr Adani’s victory comes after the facility’s approval has been hobbled by environmental protests for nine years.
If everything goes to plan, the coal mine is projected to be Australia’s largest – and possibly the world’s.
The company claims the huge mine will produce 2.3 billion tonnes of the black rock over the next 60 years.
But there is something more extraordinary than the scale of Mr Adani’s ambitions in Australia: the sensational secrets he has hidden behind his bushy moustache.
School dropout Gautam Adani, 56, is behind Australia’s controversial new mine. He is pictured with his wife Priti at the wedding of Akash Ambani – from India’s richest family
Mr Adani’s son Karan (pictured left) married Paridhi Shroff (pictured right). Their wedding had thousands of guests, VIPs and private jets
Abduction, terror, glitz and glamour
Not long ago, Mr Adani and his dentist wife, Priti, beamed as the eldest of his two sons, Karan, married the woman of his dreams in a glitzy ceremony.
The lavish nuptials – featuring private jets, VIP guests and thousands of attendees – spoke to Mr Adani’s extreme wealth.
The businessman has predicted his enterprise will be worth an eyewatering $20 billion by 2020.
But with wealth and success comes the jealousy of others, and in 1997, kidnappers purportedly sought to take advantage of Mr Adani’s riches.
The future billionaire was held for ransom and local media reports claim he was not released until $AUD3 million was paid to his kidnappers.
Details are scant. Eight men accused of involvement in Mr Adani’s abduction have been acquitted by Indian courts, local media reports said.
And Mr Adani has been shy about speaking publicly about the no doubt terrifying incident.
Asked about the incident by London’s Financial Times, Mr Adani would only say: ‘Two or three very unfortunate incidents happened in my life, that is one of them’.
It wasn’t the first time the billionaire has came perilously close to death.
On November 26, 2008, Mr Adani was having dinner at Mumbai’s iconic Taj hotel when it came under attack by terrorists.
Mr Adani hid in the basement as armed men killed more than 160 people inside. He only escaped when commandos took the fight to the killers.
‘I saw death at a distance of just 15 feet,’ he told local media. It’s no doubt something that fuels his ambitions to this day.
Mr Adani hid in the basement of Mumbai’s iconic Taj hotel (pictured) when terrorists killed 160 people inside the building on November 26, 2008
Karan Adani’s wedding (pictured) had thousands of guests and live a live Spanish flamenco band (pictured on stage)
How he came to wealth
Mr Adani comes from simple beginnings, a rarity in India’s class-based system. Now 56, the mining magnate is estimated to be worth about $US11.4 billion ($AUD16.5b).
As a teenager, Mr Adani moved from his hometown of Gujarat, in the subcontinent’s north-west, to the big city of Mumbai.
He thought the diamond trade could be the key to his wealth but instead returned home in 1981 to work on his brother’s plastics business.
It was there he began to make his fortune – first by striking an international deal with a Korean business, then by forming an import-export business, Adani Enterprises.
His business secret, as the Financial Times put it, was simple. ‘Earn a small amount in one business, then take on heavy debts against its income to finance expansion into another,’ the broadsheet said.
It’s a strategy Mr Adani has repeated over the years, allowing him to fund the world’s biggest privately-held coal power station and India’s largest private port in Mundra, Gujurat.
Critics have railed against Mr Adani’s personal connection with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both rose to power about the same time and local media have described him as Mr Modi’s ‘constant companion’ on overseas trips.
Business pals: Both Mr Adani (left) and Mr Modi (in white) rose to power about the same time and local media have described him as Mr Modi’s ‘constant companion’ on overseas trips
The new coal mine is in its early stages (pictured) in central Queensland. The fiercely debated topic was a key decider in the federal election in the Sunshine State
What’s next for Mr Adani?
This year Adani Enterprises is set to overtake Indian multinational Tata, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, as the subcontinent’s largest private power producer since opening its first power station just 10 years ago.
Construction on the Carmichael mine is set to soon begin after a management plan was approved by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science.
‘I’m thankful to the Queensland government and the Australian federal government for believing in Adani’s vision to fortify India’s energy security & create opportunities for Australians,’ Mr Adani said on Wednesday.
‘The project will deliver 1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs,’ the company has claimed. But critics say the exact number is far lower. And despite the approval from the state and federal governments, there are still some obstacles before the mine gets off the ground.
The controversy is sure to continue with conservationists worried about the effect the dam will have on a nearby spring, the region’s groundwater and the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
If all goes to plan, Mr Adani’s dream mine is set to start operations in 2021.
Successful businessman: Mr Adani rang the bell when his Mundra Port & Special Economic Zone Ltd. was listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai in 2007. His business has boomed since then