Abhey Oswal: An aggressive business tycoon (Obituary)

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Coming from a Ludhiana-based family known for its woollens business, Abhey Oswal — who died in Moscow on Tuesday night — was an aggressive businessman adept at acquisitions and venturing into new areas, besides being instrumental in setting up the world’s largest grassroots phosphoric acid plant.

Joining the family business in his 20s, Abhey Oswal set up a frantic pace to be counted as one of the high-profile industrials in no time.

He set up Oswal Agro Ltd. in 1979 and was active in acquiring ICI’s plant near Kolkata, Union Carbide’s unit in Mumbai and Jagatjit Industries’ sugar mill in Punjab.

In the 1980s, he was regarded as the ‘next Ambani’ for his aggressive business plans.

He later realised his aggressive business plans and diversified activities were not helping his companies to grow. He changed course and started focusing on the fertiliser business, veering away from sugar, vanaspati and rice.

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Just as the Ambanis are known for owning the world’s largest refinery, Oswal played a pivotal role in establishing the world’s largest grassroots phosphoric acid plant at Paradip in Odisha.

But unfortunately, his astronomical growth was followed by controversies. He was arrested in 1990 by the Enforcement Directorate for Foreign Exchange Regulation Act violations and was charged with avoidance of custom duty.

Oswal set up his one million tonne capacity ammonia urea plant in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, with a capital outlay of Rs.1,368 crore.

His elder son, Pankaj, is carrying on his father’s legacy in the fertiliser business and has set up one of the world’s largest ammonia plants in Perth, Australia.

Diversification seemed to be in Abhey Oswal’s DNA.

In 2005, he entered the healthcare market, and concentrated on developing life saving medicines, particularly for cancer and diabetes.

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Son of late Lala Vidya Sagar Oswal and brother of leading industrialists Jawahar Oswal, Jangi Lal Oswal and Neelam Oswal, the 67-year-old Abhey Oswal died of heart failure in the Russian capital on Tuesday night.

The business tycoon was on a visit to a research centre in Moscow where he was to launch some medicines developed by his company.

He is survived by his wife Aruna, two sons Pankaj and Shail Oswal and a daughter Shalu Jindal, who is married to high profile industrialist Navin Jindal.

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