Steel baron Lakshmi Mittal spoke to NDTV in an exclusive interview after he was awarded the global Xavierian award by the St Xavier's College. Here is the transcript of the interview:
Today's guest is indeed very special. His stories span in several continents, starting in Rajasthan, Calcutta, Indonesia and now in London. He is often called the King of Steel and we are really fortunate to be joined by Mr Mittal today. Mr Mittal, my first question to you is, and it is on the day when you are awarded the global Xavierian award and this is an award given out by St Xavier University every year to global achievers. But the irony is not lost on anyone Sir because this is the university that you almost didn't get admission to. Sir, tell me a bit about that experience, how did it change you and how did it make you the business person that you are today? Lakshmi Mittal:
First of all I am very honoured that St Xavier's have decided to award me with this global Xavierian award. The story goes back to when I was 16-years-old. I passed my Hindi-medium school in Calcutta and then applied for admission in St Xavier's and since I came from the Hindi-medium school the jury said that the Principal felt that I would not be able to fit in an English-medium College. Though I was topping in my class in school, though I got admission in other colleges, I really wanted to study in St Xavier's. So I kept on knocking his door every day and finally he gave it up and I promised him that I will be good student and which I did. NDTV:
And did this experience shape you as a business person. You are breaking down doors, breaking ceiling, is that something you learnt at St Xavier's? Lakshmi Mittal:
It was a challenge for me to prove other juries wrong but coming from Hindi-medium school cannot do well in an English-medium college and that challenge really gave me lot of learning. I determined myself that I would prove him wrong and I really dedicated myself, committed to myself that I have to accept this challenge and continue to work hard, focus on the studies and this is a great learning in the business life that first of all have to have a commitment, dedication and the passion for what you are doing. As I said that everybody works hard but something is needed to differentiate you from others. One needs to focus, be dedicated, commit and contend to work hard. NDTV:
Sir, your tryst with St Xavier's could have extended, you were offered a job of a professor at the college, which you did not take up. Why did you not take up and do you regret not doing that job? Lakshmi Mittal:
I was 19-years-old when this lectureship was offered to me and for me my satisfaction was when I topped in the University proving the juries wrong and that itself was a great satisfaction for me that I achieved and I could have accepted this job or this opportunity offered to me so it was 6 o'clock in the morning and I had enough 6 o'clocks for many years, that was the emotion at that time and nothing else. Today if I have to have an alternate career I would still like to a be professor or lecturer because I feel that parting education, parting knowledge is a great cause for a society and for the students and for the leaders of tomorrow. NDTV:
But Sir, do you regret not taking up that job?
I do not regret not taking the job. I have a mixed feeling about this. Should have taken, should not have, but whatever you do whether it is a lecturer's job or a business one, the thing I learnt was that it is a hard life. Life always comes with lots of challenges and whether I am a lecturer or do any other profession, it is a big challenge. One has to continue to work hard for this. NDTV:
Sir, another thing that got my attention and this the address you made to the Alumni from St Xavier's, You said that you tried to learn French but you couldn't and then you said that you didn't understand French and the French haven't understood you. Sir, I would like to ask you a bit about this and firstly you have done business in so many countries has France been particularly difficult for you and secondly are you going to learn French in the future? Lakshmi Mittal:
No. We have a really large business in France and it is a very important business for us and it is a very important country for us. I like my business in France and I love my employees, my colleagues, who are French and I love going there and meeting them and talking to them. NDTV:
But has it been a sort of a bruising experience in last very months, you know how it played out. Lakshmi Mital:
It is the other challenges of the economy. It is not the challenge of French economy alone. It is the open economy, world economy, which have caused us to take some decisions for the sustainability of the business and it takes time for the people to understand and that's what happened once we started communicating, educating and started explaining the rationale behind what we are doing to mitigate the challenge of the European economy. I believe everyone understood and we have a great relationship with everyone in France. NDTV:
And are you going to learn French? Lakshmi Mittal:
No, I am too old for that. NDTV:
Sir, I would also want to talk to you about India. Sir, last two years have been tough for India as you know growth is slow. There have been corruption scandals. I did an interview with Mr P Chidambaram. He said that we shouldn't exaggerate the problem of corruption in India. What is your perception, what is your outlook for India? Lakshmi Mittal:
I have two comments. One is that India cannot be decoupled from the world and sometime there was a perception and feeling that India is decoupled from the world and it continued to rise but that's not true in today's globalised world. Each one is connected to everybody so if there is a situation when the macro-economic situation globally is not good and if there is a recession in Europe and there are challenges in different parts of the world, India cannot be immune to this. Definitely we were not ready to face the results of these economic crises and I think that has has taken lots of people by surprise that India will continue to grow and we will have lots of opportunities and we will continue to do well, that's not true. And second, I think that India is in transition to a better country. It is all how I will put all these scams and scandals that you mentioned. At least we now know them and we address these challenges, scam and scandals in a proper way and improve the governance we have a great future. NDTV:
Sir, this is slightly personal question, as everybody knows that you still have not given up your Indian passport. Sir why have to done that? Why haven't you given up your passport? Lakshmi Mital:
I am Indian and I have my allegiance to the country.
And in a future would you ever consider changing that? Lakshmi Mital:
No, I haven't changed now and I will not change in the future. NDTV:
Fantastic, and sir one last question to you is that what is your message and this on a day when you are here to celebrate your time spent at St Xavier's college. Young, bright entrepreneurs and students in India watching this. What is that one message you would like to give it to the students, you know is it possible to be Mr Mittal for these student in India and young people in India as well?
Today I will give only one message that education is very important. Education, education and education and that is the foundation of our future.
And Sir, you are very sentimental and one other issue as well and that's marriage as well. What is the one advise you would like to give to... and you know you mentioned very funny thing again this is in a gathering to Alumnus from your University you know that girl are not still there at the St Xavier's College in the morning, so what is that a general advice you would like to give to the young people about marriage?
We are talking about equality in the world and there cannot be that girls are not admitted in the morning. That's all very simple message there is nothing behind this I was just trying to joke with Father Falics. NDTV:
Thank you Mr Mittal. So that was rare, special interview with the King of Steel as we call Mr Mittal.