29 Dec 2009, ET Bureau
At the age of 76, most others prefer to sit back and savour the sepia-tinted moments of their life, but not GV Krishna Reddy, the GVK Group’s patriarch. He won his first construction contract when he was barely 22 and more than five decades later, his infrastructure flagship has an asset base of over $5.24 billion.
But his penchant for taking risks hasn’t diminished a bit. The entrepreneur now has ambitions to scale up his conglomerate to $10 billion over the next five years. His agility can only be matched with his razor-sharp memory as he recalls his early days.
“I was just 22 years old when I began my career in the construction business. We bagged the contract to build the Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam canal works, the largest masonry dam. It was one of the toughest jobs, but I gained enormous confidence to take risks. I tend to work harder and try to achieve targets wherever there are problems,” says GVK.
It isn’t easy to meet tough deadlines, hectic schedules and take up punishing site visits year after year and still be hailed as a people’s person by your colleagues and peers. GVK’s style of functioning has been described as “democratic”.
He brings to the table five decades of experience that stands taller than his 6-feet-3-inch frame. His early morning meetings with the senior management help him stay connected with the business. The Osmania University graduate follows a hands-off approach regarding day-to-day operations, but is hands-on when it comes to issues relating to strategy.
He believes in visiting project sites himself. In fact, he is quite ready to attend meetings soon after an 18-hour flight from the US. “I am completely in awe of the way he works. Last week, he travelled to Delhi from Hyderabad, then flew to Dehradun by a chopper and returned to Hyderabad the same day after attending a host of meetings.
At his age, I wonder if I’d be able to do anything like this. The reason for GVK to achieve such growth is perhaps his passion. Also, the company has had the first-mover advantage in hotels and power plants in Andhra,” says E Sudhir Reddy, chairman and managing director, IVRCL Infra.
A true entrepreneur that he is, he didn’t limit himself to construction. He was the first player in the prelaminated particle board business; the first to build a five-star hotel in hometown Hyderabad and the first fast-track independent power producer.
From cash contracts to owner-developer, it has been an eventful and productive journey for the infrastructure flagship, GVK Power and Infrastructure (GVKPIL). Today, it has an asset base of over $5.24 billion (Rs 25,000 crore). It underwent consolidation in 2007, bringing all its power, airport and road assets under one roof — GVKPIL.
The list includes such trophy assets as the Mumbai International Airport, which operates the country’s busiest airport and the Jaipur Expressway. The consolidation was meant to create a comprehensive infrastructure company, a large balance sheet and better positioning in terms of unlocking operating asset value.
GVK reckons that the Mumbai International Airport is the most difficult airport to build, as it has only 2,000 acres of land unlike the newer airports which are much bigger in area. But this has not deterred the group from looking at a larger role in India’s airport business.