Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani
Founder, Reliance Empire
“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” said Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, arguably India’s greatest entrepreneur ever, years before his death on July 6, 2002.
He was born on 28 December 1932 at Chorwad, Junagadh (in Gujarat) to Hirachand Gordhanbhai Ambani and Jamnaben in a Modh Bania family. Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the most innovative Indian entrepreneurs. 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. He started his entrepreneurial career by selling “pakoda” to pilgrims in Mount Girnar over the weekends. When he was 16 years old, he moved to Aden, Yemen, there he worked with A. Besse & Co. for a salary of Rs.300. Two years later, A. Besse & Co. became the distributors for Shell products, and he was promoted to manage the company’s filling station at the port of Aden.
In 1962, he returned to India and started Reliance Commercial Corporation with an investment of 15000 INR in a 350 sq ft. room with a telephone, one table, three chairs and two assistants. The primary business of Reliance Commercial Corporation was to import polyester yarn and export spices.
Later assisted by his two sons, Mukesh and Anil, he built India’s largest private sector company, Reliance India Limited, from scratch. Over time his business has diversified into a core specialization in petrochemicals with additional interests in telecommunications, information technology, energy, power, retail, textiles, infrastructure services, capital markets, and logistics.
The credit for the revolution in the Capital Markets also goes to him. He generated billions of rupees as wealth for those who put their trust in his companies. His efforts helped in creating an ‘equity cult’ in the Indian capital market. Reliance was responsible for coming up with innovative instruments like the convertible debenture which made them favorite in the stock market in the 1980s. In 1992, Reliance was also the first Indian company to raise money in global markets. Reliance also became the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.
He 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“.