Debnarayan Bhattacharya, popularly known as Debu, is the backbone of Aditya Birla Group's metals business - Hindalco-Novelis, whose revenues, at $16 billion, amount to nearly half the group's total.
He is also the Chairman of Utkal Alumina International Limited and of Aditya Birla Minerals Limited, a wholly owned copper subsidiary of Hindalco in Australia, which runs two copper mines - one in Nifty and the other one in Mt. Gordon.
Bhattacharya quit his fast-track job at Unilever in London to join Hindalco in 1999. He admits it was not an easy decision for him to quit a giant multinational brand like Unilever and join Kumar Mangalam Birla's team. "It was a difficult decision. It was not easy at all. But I must say that I have not regretted since then," says Bhattacharya.
Bhattacharya was not the only one to take such a plunge. A bunch of other professionals also moved to the Aditya Birla Group in the late 1990s to make up Kumar Mangalam Birla's team.
Bhattacharya explains: "At that time, the Indian entrepreneurial drive was missing in Unilever. And having worked very closely in London and Holland, I realised that they are very very risk averse."
He adds: "This group is ambitious and not averse to taking certain calculated risks as long as these are manageable. So that is very attractive," explains Bhattacharya.
What was the biggest risk he has taken in this group? It was the acquisition of Novelis - the world's largest aluminium rolling company - in May 2007, which was four times Hindalco's size then.
Interestingly, Bhattacharya was one of the older people whom Kumar Mangalam Birla had brought into the group. He is 63 and is likely to be around for five more years as the group has a slightly flexible policy on retirement of its senior directors. Till then Bhattacharya is going strong.