Jamshedpur, March 31: An arrogant loose cannon is how some of those who know Raj Kumar Agrawal describe the one-time hardware supplier and now business tycoon at the centre of the Rajya Sabha election scandal.
Independent nominee Agrawal, in the glare after his brother’s car carrying Rs 2.15 crore in cash was intercepted near Ranchi hours before voting begain for the two Rajya Sabha seats, famously denounced “corrupt politicians” at a recent public forum.
The occasion was a Q&A session with Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata and chairman designate Cyrus Mistry held on March 3 by Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) of which he is president.
Agrawal went hammer and tongs against politicians, branding all of them in Jharkhand corrupt. “If the Tatas can prepare competent officers why can’t they make similar efforts towards making good leaders for the country?” he had asked, leaving many surprised considering his affinity to almost every political leader worth his weight in the state.
And Agrawal’s proximity to those who mattered could well have played a large part in his incredible success story.
The 49-year-old businessman, who set up Hind Hardware in Adityapur industrial area in 1982 with just Rs 8,000 in his pocket, in five year’s time was producing chemicals for integrated steel plants, his clientele including Tata Steel and every major steel manufacturer around the country.
Agrawal, who lives with his family in the posh Circuit House Area, the family having moved there in 2002 from Ashiana Gardens, owns Hi-Tech Chemicals Pvt Limited in Gamharia. The three units there feed refractory products to steel companies across various states. The company’s turnover is around Rs 400-500 crore.
A Jaipur-based plant owned by one of Agrawal’s five brothers manufactures higher insulation products for the defence establishment.
“Though it’s a monopoly, Agrawal built the business with his own hands, taking the help of the best technical talent he could hire. He initially faced a fiscal crunch after setting up shop in 1987-88, but the problems disappeared as the business grew,” said an old acquaintance.
The bespectacled business heavyweight also established Nilachal Iron and Power Plant with a foreign collaborator at Ratanpur in Kandra district of Seraikela-Kharsawan, after pumping almost Rs 500 crore into the project.
However, he sold the unit to Calcutta-based Jai Balajee Group a few years ago.
Agrawal also has a finger in the retail pie, part owning a shopping mall-cum-multiplex which is coming up at Bistupur. He was also into real estate for sometime, before giving up that interest to focus full-time on his refractory activities.
Though Agrawal himself is not into mining, his daughter’s Chaibasa-based father in law Raj Kumar Shah owns an iron ore mine in West Singhbhum. Agrawal also just happens to be the sole dealer of Ford cars in Bihar and Jharkhand.
As Agrawal’s stature in the world of successful business rose, so did his reputation of being a big spender. For his daughter’s 2011 wedding in Goa, he chartered five flights to fly his guests, including politicians, corporate honchos and Baba Ramdev, to the venue.
So close is the tycoon to Ramdev, that he organised the latter’s yoga camp in the steel city in 2008, earning the state president’s post of Bharat Swabhiman Trust in return. Agrawal is also said to have arranged refreshments during the controversial Ramdev camp in Delhi last year.
Among Agrawal’s myriad other interests is the family-run Sarbati Devi Prabhu Dayal Vidya Mandir, Sarbati Devi Prabhu Dayal Seva Sadan and a colony for leprosy patients in Burmamines. He also heads the Jharkhand Pradeshik Gaushala Sangh.
The family also runs a health centre at Bharat Sevashram in Sonari. The businessman funds 10 schools run by NGO Vanvasi Vikas Kendra in the hinterlands of Jharkhand.
His many achievements notwithstanding, Agrawal has really not been able to shrug off the “arrogant” tag.
“Agrawal’s a loose cannon. Sometimes he forgets where he is while speaking in public. He also never misses an opportunity to speak about his social activities,” an aide revealed.
During the Q&A that day, Ratan Tata allowed Mistry to reply to Agrawal’s poser about the Tata Group’s responsibility of creating good leaders for the country.
The young chairman designate stressed simply and politely that steps had to be initiated to bring educated youths into politics.
That seemed to silence the SCCI chief for the time being.