Born to a school teacher, he was third of five siblings, Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani or Dhirubhai Ambani, as he is popularly called, is the shiniest example of the Indian heroes who rose from obscurity and very humble backgrounds and went on to create one of the largest Indian company featured on Fortune 500 companies list.
He was born on 28th December, 1932 in Chorwad village in Gujarat where his parents had very modest means. Though his father was a teacher he showed little interest in formal education. At the tender age of 16 he went to Aden, Yemen and joined A. Besse & Co. which was one of a largest trading firms in the region as a gas station attendant and dispatch clerk and with hard work soon became a distributor for shell products. It was here that he started dreaming about setting up and owning a refinery which he later realized when he started his petrochemical venture.
He got married to Kokilaben in 1954 and in 1958 came back to India to start his own business. He set up an office at Masjid Bunder of South Mumbai in 1960’s as Reliance Commercial Corporation and started to import polyester and export spices in partnership with his second cousin Champaklal Damani. They both had difference of opinions regarding the conduct of business and soon separated out. The success of Dhirubhai can be attributed to his tremendous ability to raise huge capital and larger than life vision for the future. He always sensed the next big opportunity and that way always remained ahead of the pack. As he famously said,
“Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one’s monopoly.”
In 1966 Dhirubhai founded Reliance Textiles Industries Pvt. Ltd. and started his own textile manufacturing unit at Naroda, Ahmedabad. In 1970’s Reliance established itself as a dominant player in the market with Vimal brand. Continued emphasis on quality won Vimal accolades from even world bank technical team and was applauded as best polyester clothing brand. The big breakthrough came in 1977 when Reliance held it’s initial public offering (IPO). 58000 investors showed their interest and the issue was oversubscribed seven times. Thereafter company expanded fast and increased it’s installed capacity for producing polyester yarn as well as amalgamated in it some other smaller textile companies.
Between 1980 and 1985 Dhirubhai fought many a battles at stock exchange where the old established players tried all dirty tricks to weaken the company, but they always fell short in front of his ability and skill to outmaneuver them every time. In 1985 the name of the company was changed to Reliance Industries and shortly thereafter in 1991-92 it diversified into petrochemicals with the commissioning of Hazira Petrochemical plant. Later Reliance diversified into telecom, finance, energy, natural resources and retail among other industries. As of March 2013 the company had 123 subsidiary companies and 10 associate companies. By March 2017 it has grown to be second largest company in India by revenue and market capitalization. Vision for Reliance was set up by Dhirubhai Ambani when he said,
“Meeting the deadlines is not good enough, beating the deadlines is my expectation.”
Possessed with huge ambition, inexhaustible energy and with uncanny business sense the life journey of Dhirubhai is the true story of rise from rags to riches. He got married to Kokilaben in 1954 and they were blessed with four children. He suffered stroke in 1986 which limited him somewhat physically but never in his vision. He has remained one of the most awarded entrepreneur for his contributions. Dean’s Medal in 1998 from Wharton School, Power 50 – the most powerful people in Asia by Asiaweek magazine in 1996, 1998 and 2000, The ABLF Global Asian Award in 2011 and Padma Vibhushan award, the second highest civilian honor in India, in 2016 are some of the awards he received. He died on 6th July, 2002 after suffering another major stroke.
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