Ravi  Ruia

Ravi Ruia

Co-Chairman and Vice President, Essar Group

Date of Birth: 1949

The Essar Group’s overseas expansion is accelerating into Africa. In April, Ravi Ruia announced that his sojourn in London would become permanent. The city became his capital-raising base: that month, Essar Energy listed on the London Stock Exchange, raising US$2 billion.

Essar Group, the Mumbai-based conglomerate run by Ravi Ruia and his elder brother Shashi, records more than $15 bn. in sales. The younger Ruia studied mechanical engineering at Anna University in Chennai.

Their father, Nand Kishore Ruia, founded Essar Gujarat in 1956, naming it for the ‘S’ and ‘R’ of his sons’ names. It began as a shipping and petroleum exploration company in 1956, before moving into port and undersea pipeline construction. In 1990, iron was added to the portfolio of ventures, then telecoms. Hutchison Essar was an undertaking with Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. Li sold his stake in 2007; now Vodafone Essar, it is India’s third-largest telecom company.

Essar’s plans for Africa are ambitious. The group joined a number of bidders for power-plant contracts in Nigeria; Essar’s proposal calls for a $2 bn. investment and would provide 2,000 megawatts of capacity. Essar Energy, a subsidiary based in Mauritius, owns a coal mine in Mozambique and is investing $60 mn. for a 54% stake in the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

Essar already operates a struggling refinery in Mombasa, Kenya, which it acquired from Shell and BP in 2009. Now it is competing to build a refinery in Uganda to process Lake Albert oil, which is intended to offset Uganda’s dependence on Kenyan crude. The bid pits Essar against the China National Offshore Oil Corporation and France’s Total.