Biography of Dhirubhai Ambani

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Indian Entrepreneur Dhirubhai Ambani Biography
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Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the foremost Indian Entrepreneurs and Businessman who founded India’s largest private sector company, Reliance India Limited. Dhirubhai Ambani is credited with having introduced a number of financial innovations in the Indian capital markets.

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani was an Indian business tycoon who founded Reliance Industries in 1958 in Mumbai. Lovingly called Dhirubhai, his success in the petro – chemical business and his story of rags – to – riches made him a cult figure in the minds of the Indian people.

Ambani took his company (Reliance) public in 1977, and by 2007 the combined fortune of the family (sons Anil and Mukesh) was 60 billion dollars, making the Ambani’s the second richest family in the world, next to the Walton family.

Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the most enterprising Indian entrepreneurs. Dhirubhai Ambani built India’s largest private sector company has created an equity cult in the Indian capital market. Reliance is the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

Early Life of Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani was born into a Modh family on 28th December, 1932 in Chorwad, Junagadh. Junagadh is part of the state of Gujarat in India. His father was a schoolteacher. Dhirubhai was precocious and highly intelligent.

Dhirubhai Ambani was also highly impatient of the oppressive grinding mill of the school classroom. When Dhirubhai Ambani was 17 Years old, he moved to Aden (now part of Yemen). Initially, Dhirubhai worked as a dispatch clerk with A. Besse & Co.

After becoming the distributor for the Shell products, A. Besse & Co promoted Dhirubhai to manage the company’s oil filling station at the port of Aden.

Dhirubhai Ambani was married to Kokilaben and had two sons, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, and two daughters, Nina Kothari and Deepti Salgaoncar.

Achievements of Dhirubhai Ambani

In the year 1958 returned to Mumbai and started his first company, Reliance Commercial Corporation, a commodity trading and export house with an initial capital of Rupees 15000.

The primary business was to import polyester yarn and export spices Dhirubhai set up the business in partnership with Champaklal Damani from whom he parted ways in 1965. Dhirubhai was a known risk taker and Dhirubhai Ambani considered that building inventories, anticipating a price rise, and making profits through that was good for growth.

Dhirubhai started his first textile mill at Naroda, near Ahmedabad in 1966 and started the brand “Vimal”. Textiles were manufactured using polyester fibre yarn. Dhirubhai started named the brand after his elder brother Ramaniklal Ambani’s son, Vimal Ambani. Extensive marketing of the brand “Vimal” made it a household name in the interiors of India.
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In the year 1975, a technical team from the World Bank certified that the Reliance textile plant was “excellent by developed country standards.” In the year 1977, the company went public.

With the passage of time, Dhirubhai diversified into petrochemicals and sectors like telecommunications, information technology, energy, power, retail, textiles, infrastructure services, capital markets, and logistics.

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

Dhirubhai Ambani has the rare distinction of being the first Indian to get Wharton School Dean’s Medal in 1998 for setting an outstanding example of leadership.

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the growth and development of the chemical industry in India Chemtech Foundation and Chemical Engineering World in 2000 conferred him the ‘Man of the Century’ award. The ‘Asiaweek’ magazine featured him among ‘Power 50 – the most powerful people in Asia’ on 1996, 1998 and 2000.

In 2001 Dhirubhai Ambani received The Economic Times Award for Corporate Excellence for Lifetime Achievement. The Hindi Film Guru, with direction by Mani Ratnam, is a film alleged to be inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani was released on 12th January, 2007.

The movie shows the struggle of a man striving to make his mark in the Indian business world with a fictional Shakti Group of Industries. The film portrays the strength of Dhirubhai Ambani with the help of the character of Guru Kant Desai.

Equity Cult

The ‘equity cult’ in India is the brain child of Dhirubhai Ambani. Dhirubhai Ambani has been credited in shaping the Indian equity culture. More than 58,000 investors from various parts of India subscribed to Reliance’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 1977.

People of rural Gujarat have been convinced by Dhirubhai that being shareholders of his company will only bring returns to their investment. Reliance Industries is the only Public Limited Company whose several Annual General Meetings were held in stadiums because of the number of the shareholders.

Dhirubhai revolutionized capital markets. From nothing, Dhirubhai Ambani generated billions of rupees in wealth for those who put their trust in his companies. With innovative instruments like the convertible debenture, Reliance quickly became a favourite of the stock market in the 1980s.

Reliance Industries

Assisted by his two sons, Mukesh and Anil, Dhirubhai Ambani built India’s largest private sector company, Reliance India Limited. Over time, Dhirubhai diversified his business with the core specialisation being in petrochemicals and additional interests in telecommunications, information technology, energy, power, retail, textiles, infrastructure services, capital markets, and logistics.

The BBC described the company as a whole as “a business empire with an estimated annual turnover of dollar 12 billion, and an 85,000 – strong workforce.”

Today, the Reliance Group has one of the largest family of shareholders in the world. An investment of over Rupees 36,000 crore (US dollar 9 billion) in petroleum refining, petrochemicals, power generation, telecommunication services and a port terminal in a three – year time frame, has steered the Reliance Group to its current status as India’s leading textiles – petroleum – petrochemicals – power – telecom player.

Dhirubhai breathed his last on July 6, 2002. Dhirubhai Ambani had suffered a major brain stroke. His funeral procession was attended by politicians, business people, celebrities and even by thousands of ordinary people.

On the demise of Dhirubhai Ambani the Mumbai Textile Merchants’ decided to keep the market closed on the July 8, 2002, as a mark of respect to this great businessman.

His elder son, Mukesh Ambani, performed the last rites as per Hindu traditions. Dhirubhai Ambani was cremated at the Chandanwadi Crematorium in Mumbai on July 7, 2002. The Reliance Empire was split up between the Ambani brothers after the demise of Dhirubhai Ambani.

Mukesh Ambani got RIL and IPCL & his younger sibling Anil Ambani heading Reliance Capital, Reliance Energy and Reliance Infocomm. The entity headed by Mukesh Ambani is referred to as the Reliance Industries Limited whereas Anil’s Group has been renamed Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG).

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Former Prime Minister of India said of Dhirubhai, “The country has lost iconic proof of what an ordinary Indian fired by the spirit of enterprise and driven by determination can achieve in his own lifetime.” Thus  will always be remembered as the one who rewrote Indian corporate history and built a truly global corporate group.