Born in a house built by his grandfather and occupied by several of his extended family in the village of Sadulpur, Rajasthan, India on June 15, 1950, Lakshmi Narayan Mittal also known as Lakshmi Niwas Mittal is the epitome of a true rags-to-riches story.
Mohan Lal Mittal, father of Lakshmi worked for several small rolling mills in India, and in the mid 1960s was hired by a Calcutta-based firm to manage their business. Shortly thereafter, Lakshmi began attending St. Xavier College, working on his bachelor’s degree in Business. While attending college, Lakshmi worked part time for his father in the steel mill.
Upon graduating in 1969 from St. Xavier with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Lakshmi joined his fathers company full-time. Although his father enjoyed success in the business, he became discouraged with the Indian Government’s controls over private investment in large steel projects. This prompted him to seek out investors to begin a new steel company outside of India. In 1976, with $15 million in investment money, Lakshmi and his father bought a defunct steel manufacturing company in Indonesia, setting off a whirlwind of successful ventures over the next three decades.
Lakshmi Mittal soon became famous as a turnaround specialist, buying up steel mills that were operating at a loss, and turning them into profitable enterprises. Each company he added to his portfolio of business acquisitions made his drive to succeed even greater. In 1989 he bought a government founded steel mill in Trinidad and turned it around from losing $1 million a day to doubling output and becoming profitable within a year.
In 1992, he bought Mexico’s third largest steel producer for a reported $220 million, shortly thereafter, he purchased another Mexican Steel company and moved across the globe to Canada, Germany, and Ireland. In 1995, Mittal ventured to the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, where he took over a state-owned blast furnace steel plant that was near failure and had not paid the employees for nearly six months. The Kazakhstan acquisition was renamed Ispat Karmet. The new factory doubled production within a year turning out more than 250,000 tons per month. This venture also led Mittal to form two new companies; Ispat International LTD and Ispat Shipping to provide support services to the Ispat Karmet mill. Later that year Mittal acquired a steel plant in Hamburg Germany, extending total production of all plants to more than 11 million tons per year.
In 1997, Ispat International began trading on the New York stock exchange and the Amsterdam exchange. The company continued growth through acquisitions, and in 2004 Ispat International merged with International Steel Group Inc located in Ohio, USA. This merger was simultaneous with the merger of Ispat International and LNM Group to form Mittal Steel, thereby creating the second largest steel producer in the world, worth more than $22 Billion, with operations in 14 countries. Finally, in 2006 Mittal Steel acquired Arcelor SA, the number one steel producer in the world for $33 billion. The new company was renamed ArcelorMittal, and is now the largest steel producer in the world, with an annual capacity of over 100 million tons.
Lakshmi Mitall, as of 2008, is Britain’s richest citizen for the fifth straight year, and received an appointment to the board of Goldman Sachs. In 2008, his net worth increased to more than $43 billion, making him the fourth richest man in the world behind Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim Helú and Bill Gates. Aside from sitting on the boards of various Trusts, he is also a well-known and active philanthropist.
From humble beginnings in a village that did not even have electricity to a palatial estate worth over $130 million, this 58 year old steel tycoon could very well be known as the ‘Andrew Carnegie’ of India.