Essar began its operations with the construction of an outer breakwater in Chennai port. It quickly moved to capitalize on every emerging business opportunity, becoming India’s first private company to buy a tanker in 1976. The company also invested in a diverse shipping fleet and oil rigs, when the Government of India opened up the shipping and drilling businesses to private players in the 1980s.
Then, in the 1990s, Essar began its steelmaking business by setting up India’s first sponge iron plant in Hazira, a coastal town in the western Indian state of Gujarat. The company went on to build a pellet plant in Visakhapatnam, and eventually a fully integrated steel plant in Hazira.
Through the 1990s, with the gradual liberalization of the Indian economy, Essar seized every opportunity that came its way. It diversified its shipping fleet, started oil and gas exploration and production, laid the foundation of its oil refinery at Vadinar, Gujarat, and set up a power plant near the steel complex in Hazira. The construction business helped the company build most of its business assets. Essar also entered the GSM telephony business, establishing India’s first mobile phone service in Delhi (branded Essar Cellphone) with Swiss PTT as the joint venture partner.
The 21st century for Essar has been all about consolidating and growing the businesses, with mergers and acquisitions, new revenue streams and strategic geographical expansion.