Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao, 58, the recently anointed Group Chairman of GMR Group, spends most of his time shuttling between various project sites across the country and globe-trotting for industry conferences. He met BT’s Rahul Sachitanand for a free-wheeling chat on the economy, his group and its plans for the future. Excerpts:
What’s your take on economy and specifically, the booming infrastructure market?
The Indian economy is growing at nearly 10 per cent and I believe that infrastructure is the common thread that will sustain this explosive growth across various sectors. Today, perhaps 5 per cent of the market has been tapped by companies such as GMR. In the 11th Plan period alone, infrastructure investment is pegged at $320 billion (Rs 12,80,000 crore), so sky is the limit for us.
Which areas will you focus on?
Our focus is on power, urban infrastructure and airports; several other players are focussing on other areas such as sea ports. Besides our existing initiatives, we want to deepen our presence in each of our segments. For example, in airports, we don’t just want to build new projects and modernise existing terminals. We want to be in allied areas such as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and training, besides ancillary businesses such as duty-free shops. Similarly, in power, we want to bid for transmission projects besides establishing new generation units.
Do you have any global plans?
We want to be reckoned as a global infrastructure company and I think we’re making the right moves in that direction. A GMR-led consortium has won the contract for the nearly $3-billion (Rs 12,000 crore) Sabiha Gocken International Airport, Istanbul’s second. We have nearly a decade’s experience in managing fast-growing projects like this and we continue to be interested in similar deals. In addition, our power business is on the hunt for coal mines in South Africa and Indonesia.
GMR has courted controversy in the past; R-ADAG questioned your airport credentials, and initiatives such as SEZs and nuclear power projects are mired in controversy. How will you manage these issues?
Any new infrastructure initiative always has attendant obstacles. We have dealt with these hurdles in the past and are confident of dealing with them. Each of these areas is a major pain point for India and controversies will sort themselves out.
GMR is one of the few companies to have a family constitution in place. Why did you take this initiative?
The family is at the centre of our organisation and our values are incomplete without this piece. We spent around 560 hours and 60 days putting together this family constitution. Six months back, we all (family members) signed it. The document deals with succession planning, the economic benefits that will accrue to each member, rules of conduct, conflict resolution and entry of next-generation (and exit) into the business.