Born: December 28, 1932
Died: July 6, 2002

Dhiru Bhai Ambani built India's largest private sector company. Created an equity cult in the Indian capital market. Reliance is the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list

Dhirubhai Ambani was the most enterprising Indian entrepreneur. His life journey is reminiscent of the rags to riches story. He is remembered as the one who rewrote Indian corporate history and built a truly global corporate group.

Dhirubhai Ambani alias Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani was born on December 28, 1932, at Chorwad, Gujarat, into a Modh family. His father was a school teacher. Dhirubhai Ambani started his entrepreneurial career by selling "bhajias" to pilgrims in Mount Girnar over the weekends.

After doing his matriculation at the age of 16, Dhirubhai moved to Aden, Yemen. He worked there as a gas-station attendant, and as a clerk in an oil company. He returned to India in 1958 with Rs 50,000 and set up a textile trading company.

Assisted by his two sons, Mukesh and Anil, Dhiru Bhai Ambani built India's largest private sector company, Reliance India Limited, from a scratch. Over time his business has diversified into a core specialisation in petrochemicals with additional interests in telecommunications, information technology, energy, power, retail, textiles, infrastructure services, capital markets, and logistics.

Dhirubhai Ambani is credited with shaping India's equity culture, attracting millions of retail investors in a market till then dominated by financial institutions. Dhirubhai revolutionised capital markets. From nothing, he generated billions of rupees in wealth for those who put their trust in his companies. His efforts helped create an 'equity cult' in the Indian capital market. With innovative instruments like the convertible debenture, Reliance quickly became a favorite of the stock market in the 1980s.

In 1992, Reliance became the first Indian company to raise money in global markets, its high credit-taking in international markets limited only by India's sovereign rating. Reliance also became the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

Dhirubhai Ambani was named the Indian Entrepreneur of the 20th Century by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). A poll conducted by The Times of India in 2000 voted him "greatest creator of wealth in the century".

Dhirubhai Ambani died on July 6, 2002, at Mumbai

Brief Resume of Dhiru Bhai

Reliance Group Chairman Dhirubhai Ambani passed away at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on Saturday night. Here's a brief resume of India's 'Businessman of the Century.

Name: Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani

Status: Founder and Chairman of Reliance Group

Date of birth: December 28, 1932

Place of Birth: Chorwad village in Saurashtra, Gujarat

Father's name: Hirachand Govardhandas Ambani '

Mother's name: Jamunaben Hirachand Ambani

Marital Status: Married to Kokilaben. Four children -- sons Mukesh and Anil, daughters Dipti Salgaonkar, living in Goa, and Nina Kothari, living in Chennai.

Business Address: Maker Chambers IV, 222, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021

Names of major companies: Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Petroleum Ltd Directorships, Chairmanships: Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Petroleum Ltd.

Career: At the age of 17, Dhirubhai went to Aden (now in Yemen) and worked for 'A Besse and Co Ltd,' the sole distributors of Shell products.
Returned to Mumbai in 1958 and started his first company - Reliance Commercial Corp, a commodity trading and exports house.

Started textile mill in Naroda in Ahmedabad in 1966.

In 1975, a technical team of the World Bank certified that the Reliance textile plant was 'excellent' by developed country standards.

The company went public in 1997.

The group is credited with a number of financial innovations in the Indian capital market.

Today the group has the largest family of shareholders in the world.

With an investment of Rs 360 billion in petroleum refining, petrochemicals, power generation, telecommunication services and a port terminal in a three-year time frame, the late Dhirubhai Ambani had steered the Group to its current status as India's leading textiles-petrochemicals-telecommunications player.

Reliance Group is India's largest business house with total revenues of over Rs 600 billion, cash flow of Rs 70 billion, net profit of Rs 45 billion and exports of Rs 93.70 billion.

With total assets of Rs 550 billion, the group's activities span petrochemicals, synthetic fibres, fibre intermediaries, textiles, oil and gas, financial services, refining and marketing, power, insurance, telecom and infocom initiatives.

Reliance emerged as India's most admired business house in a Taylor Nelson Sofres-Mode (TSN-Mode) survey for 2001 conducted by Business Barons magazine

  • Conferred the lifetime achievement award by India HRD Congress in February 2002. Conferred The Economic Times award for corporate excellence for lifetime achievement in August 2001. Thrice rated as 'India's Most Admired CEO' in the Business Barons-Taylor Nelson Sofres-Mode survey in June 2001, 2000 and 1999
  • Felicitated by the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation, the biggest civic body of the country, with a citation and address followed by civic reception in December 2002.
  • Conferred the 'Man of the Century' award by Chemtech Foundation and chemical engineering world in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the growth and development of the chemical industry in India, in November 2000.
  • Conferred the 'Indian Entrepreneur of the 20th century' award by FICCI for his meticulous scripting of one of the most remarkable stories of business endeavours, in March 2000.
  • Thrice nominated as one of the 'Power 50-The Most Powerful People in Asia' by Asia Week magazine in 2000, 1998 and 1996.
  • Voted as the 'Most Admired Indian of the Millennium' in the field of business and economics' in 'Legends- a celebration of Excellence' poll audited by Ernst and Young for Zee network in January 2000.
  • Voted as 'Creator of Wealth of the Century' in 'The Times of India' poll in January 2000.
  • Chosen as one of three 'makers of equity' by 'India Today' in their special millennium issue entitled '100 people who shaped India in the 20th Century' in January 2000.
  • Chosen by the Indian Merchants Chamber as 'an outstanding visionary of the 20th century' for his achievements and contribution to the development of industry and capital markets in India, in December 1999.
  • Voted as 'Indian Businessman of the Century' in Business Barons Global Multimedia poll December 1999.
  • Amongst the 'Power 50- India's 50 most powerful decision maker in politics, business and finance' in Business Barons in August 1999.
  • Declared 'Most admired Indian business leader' by The Times of India, poll in July 1999.
  • The only Indian industrialist in the 'Business Hall of Fame' in Asia Week in October 1998.
  • Awarded the Dean's medal by the Wharton School, University of Pennslyvania, for setting an outstanding example of leadership, in June 1998.
  • Chosen as 'Star of Asia' by Business Week, USA in June 1998.
  • Business Barons placed Ambani on its list of India's 25 Most influential business and financial leaders, in June 1998.
  • Awarded the Companion Membership of Textile Institute, UK, a membership which is limited to 50 living members, who have substantially advanced the general interests of industries based in fibres, in 1994.
  • Chosen 'Businessman of the year 1993' by Business India, in January 1994

Man who revelled in adversity

- N Vaghul

I first came to know Dhirubhai Ambani in 1978 when I was the executive director of the Central Bank of India but I knew him intimately only when I became the chairman of ICICI in 1985. What struck me most about Dhirubhai was that he could see into the future and was a person who came into his own during adversity. Indeed, he revelled in adversity.

In 1985-90, when Rajiv Gandhi had just come in as prime minister, a lot of businessmen wrote him off. V P Singh was the finance minister, and a lot of prominent businessmen in Mumbai said that the Reliance story was over.

There was talk that Reliance had come so far only because the Indian government had been benevolent to it. Most people said that Reliance was a bubble about to burst and this kind of thing continued right until 1990.

Dhirubhai had to live with this and it was not easy for him, but each time he came back stronger.

I knew that the Reliance story was far from over. Being with ICICI, I had access to business data and I knew what they were doing and that they would become a business house to contend with. When he came to Mumbai, business houses were conservative in their world view and Dhirubhai did not fit in. He brought in an entirely different world view.

If today Reliance is what it is, he is the only person who can be credited with dreaming big. He was a man who had mastered the art of handling New Delhi.

This was a skill one had to develop because the government was far more involved in business matters during those years. One can view the New Delhi factor negatively or positisvely and I tend to view it positively purely because of what Reliance has come to be today.

He knew what he wanted and he got it. Also, he came from the second generation of businessmen who thought that business would grow on its own and also through goodwill.

In all my years as chairman of ICICI, Dhirubhai telephoned me only twice with requests. Once it was for attending a brokers' conference just after Reliance's IPO in the late 1980s.

At that time Reliance was going through lot of public perception problems and Dhirubhai wanted me to attend so as to convey the message that the company's bankers were with Reliance and were backing it. My admiration for Dhirubhai was, one can say, conditioned.

He was the one who once told me that one should be as respectful to the despatch clerk or peon as to anyone else in the organisation.

- As told to Sanjay Pillai

With Salute to the Great Entreprenuer....

From India, Vijayawada
From beginning Dhirubhai was seen in high-regard. His success in the petro-chemical business and his story of rags to riches made him a cult figure in the minds of Indian people.

As a quality of business leader, he was also a motivator. He gave few public speeches but the words he spoke are still remembered for their value. Some of them are -

* I am deaf to the word "no"

* True entrepreneurship comes only from risk-taking.

* Pursue your goal, even in the face of difficulties. Convert difficulties into opportunities. Keep your morale high, in spite of setbacks. At the end you are bound to succeed.

* My advice to young entrepreneurs is not to accept defeat in the face of odds. Challenge negative forces with hope, self-confidence and conviction. I believe that ambition and initiative will ultimately triumph. The success of the young entrepreneur will be the key to India's transformation in the new millennium.

* Dhirubhai will go one day. But Reliance's employees and shareholders will keep it afloat. Reliance is now a concept in which the Ambanis have become irrelevant.

* I have trusted people and they have put their trust in me. I have encouraged youth, and they have never let me down. I have asked my people to take initiative and to take risks. It has paid me rich dividends. I insist on excellence. This helps us to be leaders. Reliance is built on some of these principles.

* The secret of Reliance's success was to have ambition and to know the minds of men.

* Growth has no limit at Reliance. I keep revising my vision. Only when you dream it you can do it

* The problem with Indians is that we have lost the habit of thinking big!

* We can prove to the world that India can do it. That Indians are not afraid of competition. That India is a nation of achievers.

* I dream India of becoming a great economic superpower.

* We must forge a new partnership for a great India. A strong and constructive partnership between industry, government and society.

* We must always go for the best. Do not compromise on quality. Reject if it is not the best -- not only the best in India, but globally.

* If India wants to be a great nation, we must have courage to trust. This is my sincere belief.

* All we have to do is to break the shackles that chain the energies of our people, and India's economy will record a quantum leap and move into a new, higher orbit of growth, competitiveness and productivity.

* I can never fully repay the debt I owe to Mumbai. To all of you. My past was shaped in Mumbai.

* For those who dare to dream, there is a whole world to win!

* I am deaf to the word 'no'

* I am 100 per cent pro-liberalisation. I do not think any industrialist is against it. But we should protect our industries, from unfair competition.

* There is no question about that (retirement). Business is my hobby. It is not a burden to me. In any case Reliance now can run without me.

* I give least importance to being Number one. I consider myself to be fortunate in this position and would like to contribute to nation building in some way.

* Does making money excite me? No, but I have to make money for my shareholders. What excites me is achievement, doing something difficult. In this room extraordinary things must happen.

* Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one's monopoly.

* Our dreams have to be bigger. Our ambitions higher. Our commitment deeper. And our efforts greater. This is my dream for Reliance and for India.

* First and foremost, I owe my success and achievements to the affection, friendship and trust of millions of employees, customers, shareholders, and business associates, who have stood by me and been a major source of my strength all along.

* I believe that the success of Reliance cannot be attributed to the qualities and achievements of one individual, or even a group of individuals, but has to be viewed as a triumph of a process, and a spirit that binds the entire Reliance family together.

* I consider myself a pathfinder. I have been excavating the jungle and making the road for others to walk. I like to be the first in everything I do.

* I, as school kid, was a member of the Civil Guard, something like today's NCC. We had to salute our officers who went round in jeeps. So I thought one day I will also ride in a jeep and somebody else will salute me.

* My fulfillment lies in the satisfaction of every member of the Reliance family, comprising thousands of workers, managers, business associates and over five million shareholders. Being instrumental in creating wealth for over 5 million India families, and bringing prosperity and well being to their life is the best source of satisfaction and joy for me

* Give the youth a proper environment. Motivate them. Extend them the support they need. Each one of them has infinite source of energy. They will deliver.

* You do not require an invitation to make profits.

* If you work with determination and with perfection, success will follow.

* Between my past, the present and the future, there is one common factor: Relationship and Trust. This is the foundation of our growth.

* We bet on people.

* Meeting the deadlines is not good enough, beating the deadlines is my expectation.

* Don't give up, courage is my conviction.

* We cannot change our rulers, but we can change the way they rule us.

As A G Krishnamurthy, founder of Mudra Communications, writes in his book, Dhirubhaism, about some of the Reliance founder's doctrines:

* Roll up your sleeves and help. You and your team share the same DNA.

* Be a safety net for your team.

* Always be the silent benefactor. Don't tom-tom about how you helped someone.

* Dream big, but dream with your eyes open.

* Leave the professional alone!

* Change your orbit, constantly!

* Money is not a product by itself, it is a by-product, so don't chase it

Dhirubhai Ambani was a great entrepreneur who transformed his vision into achievements with his strong belief and self confidence.

He believed in his dreams and he lived his dream. Hats-off to Dhirubhai


From India, Vijayawada
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