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My early business mistakes – Vikas Rambal

By Beatrice Thomas

Perdaman chairman Vikas Rambal may have a diverse portfolio of businesses across six countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy ride for the Perth-headquartered entrepreneur.  

With his fair share of successes and failures, including the highly publicised fall-out with former business partner Pankaj Oswal after establishing Burrup Fertiliser (now Yara Pilbara Fertilisers), which resulted in a court battle and settlement.   

He is currently in the process of establishing one of the world’s largest urea plants on the Burrup Peninsular, worth $4.5 billion and right next door to Yara. However, his attempt at establishing a urea plant in Collie earlier this decade did not eventuate.  

Plans fell through when the company was unable to secure a deal for the supply of coal after the collapse of Griffin Coal and its subsequent sale to India-based Lanco.  

So, what has he learnt along the journey and what makes him come back with even more ambitious plans? 

“It’s just believing in one thing, keep doing what is right and what your heart says,” Rambal explains.  

“My mantra is join hands with the people who believe in you and that’s good enough to help you get to the next stage in life. There are a few people who believe in me that I can achieve it, so I am doing it, that belief is there.”  

Rambal says while he learnt a big lesson from the Collie failure – that you should choose your partners before you choose your project, he doesn’t consider it his worst business decision.  

Cashed up after the Burrup settlement, Rambal says he should have invested more in property between 2005-08 and grown the Perdaman property portfolio to the next stage.  

“I am behind 10 years. Prices were low and I had a lot of capital and what happened was, and this is a lesson for all the young people, you get carried away with one thing,” he says.  

“I was so carried away with Burrup Fertiliser I was thinking ‘this is the end of the world’ but once that was taken away from me you start believing ‘oh there is something else’.  

“That is one thing I did wrong in this storm, it was that I had a lot of capital and I should have put more money in property and land, which I did in 2015, so I lost around 10 years.”  

Reflecting on his ride to the top, Rambal says it’s the setbacks have been the biggest lessons and part of the “journey you need to have” as an entrepreneur.  

“I can tell you from my experience, I didn’t learn my life through the successes or Burrup, I learnt my life through the failure of Collie. I learnt more through the failure of Collie than the Burrup success.” 

Perdaman chairman Vikas Rambal may have a diverse portfolio of businesses across six countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy ride for the Perth-headquartered entrepreneur.  

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