“He could do all this just because he could dream, and dream big. He was a hanker with a vision.”
Unalterable instinct, futuristic outlook, indomitable will, and a burning passion- All that Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, better known as Dhirubhai Ambani had when he set out to work out his way for living in the lanes of Bombay way back in 1958.
Dhirubhai Ambani is not an unheard name to an Indian. As the founder of India’s largest private firm and second largest publicly traded company in the country, Reliance Industries, Dhirubhai has undoubtedly made enormous capital in his lifetime but for his thousands of shareholders.He could do all this just because he could dream, and dream big.
From being a spice dealer to a cloth merchant to a textile producer, it was his ambition and inexhaustible energy and a never say die spirit that leads him through all the obstacles to emerge as a business tycoon of India. He established and led the foundation for “Reliance Industries” which has today become one of the largest conglomerates in the world. Today we talk about the success story of Dhirubhai Ambani which is a legacy that would serve as an inspiration for the generation to come.
Dhirubhai Ambani was born to Hirachand Govardhandas Ambani and Jamanaben in the village of Chorwad, Junagadh district. His father was employed as a school teacher while his mother was a homemaker. Raised in frugal living condition right from an early age, he was aware of the inefficiencies that the family dealt due to the small income of father and larger expenses. Well, Dhirubhai Ambani was just 26 but he has already given enough indication of his money making abilities. However, his family condition forced him to take a job and he started working as a petrol attendant and then as a clerk in an oil company. Later he went to Aden in Yemen and took up a clerical job at A. Besse & Co., which was one of the largest trans-continental trading firms.
Curious to learn the tricks of the trade, he soon started working simultaneously for a Gujarati trading firm. It was there he learned accounting, book-keeping and preparing shipping papers and documents. He also acquired the skill of dealing with bank insurance companies. Meanwhile, Yemeni movement for independence curtailed opportunities for Indians living in Aden. Thus he moved back to India in 1958 and started exploring business opportunities in Bombay.
Since he could not make a large investment, he settled as a spice trader under the name “Reliance Commercial Corporations”. He soon started trading spices and sugar to the Gulf Emirates. He initially focused low profits and high volumes and high quality. Not the one to have easily contended, he soon shifted focus to yarn trading. Though this had a high level of risk involved. But if the risk were high, so where the margins for a man of daring. Later as a first step to fulfilling his dream of setting up a manufacturing unit, he started setting up a textile mill in Naroda, Ahmedabad. In 1966, every weekend he flew from Bombay to Ahmedabad to check on the progress of the establishment of the factory and troubleshoot the problem faced by the workers. His main aim was to produce the best quality Nylon in the quickest way possible and in large quantities.
More than anything else I learnt that nothing big can ever be achieved without money, influence, and power and I also learnt that money, influence, and power alone cannot achieve anything in life, big or small, without a certain soft, delicate, sensitive, understanding human touch in all one’s deeds and words.
– Dhirubhai Ambani
Later with the value of Indian rupee falling down drastically, it stipends the project cost. Nevertheless, not one to get scared of taking risks. He continued with the project.
By August 1966, the construction work almost over, the equipment and machinery were being installed to start up with the productions. However, the new company had no buyers in the market. The whole seller refused to buy any fabric from Reliance at the instance of established big mill owners. Not the one to accept soon defeat. He soon steps out of the road and started selling stock directly to the retailers. His daring attitude and gutsy behavior impressed everyone and soon the market for Vimal – the name of his fabric, started expanding. In no time it became the finest and the best selling fashion fabric.
By 1972, Reliance became huge and thriving which was a contrast to its starting days. 3 years later it received an award of excellence from the world bank, which speeded the upgradation and expansion of all plant operations. Between 1984 and 1996, the mill experienced a grand makeover with his sons Mukesh and Anil joining the forces and started deploying computerized and hi-tech machines while replacing the old and traditional ones; Making Reliance the grandest composite mill in the country.
Dhirubhai Ambani is awarded starting the equity cult in India. More than 58,000 investors from various parts of India subscribed to Reliance’s IPO in 1977. Dhiru Bhai was able to convince a large number of small investors from rural Gujarat that being shareholders of his company would be profitable. Reliance Industries was the first private sector company whose Annual General Meetings were held in stadiums. In 1986, The Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries number of first-time retail investors to invest in Reliance.
Over time, Dhirubhai diversified his business with the core specialization being in petrochemicals and additional interests in telecommunications, information technology, energy, power, retail, textiles, infrastructure services, capital markets, and logistics. The company as a whole was described by the BBC as “a business empire with an estimated annual turnover of $12bn, and an 85,000-strong workforce”.
Dhirubhai Ambani was the mastermind, the initiator, conceptualizer, and visualizer behind the Reliance group. Starting off as a mere yarn dealer he rewrote history by establishing Reliance Industries at grass root level and making it the largest business empire in India.
He was also conferred with numerous honors including Dean’s medal, lifetime achievement award for corporate excellence and the man of the century award.
Dhirubhai Ambani’s greatest achievement was that he showed Indians what was possible, with no Oxford or any degree or no family capital he achieved what no one could even imagine, no one could have thought that the man who arrived in Mumbai with just RS 500/- in his pocket later be ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s richest person with an estimated net worth of $2.9 Billion in 2002. He appeared in The Sunday Times top 50 businessmen in Asia. Ambani took Reliance Industries public in 1977 and by 2007, the combined fortune of the family was $60 billion. Ambani died on 6 July 2002. In 2016, He was honored posthumously with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor for his contributions to trade and industry.
It was his futuristic vision and strong business acumen that Reliance industries created history in the world business.
But it is for everyone to learn that capital in hand will not make you that you what you want to be. It all comes with hard work, focus, and dedication.
Dhirubhai showed he had that street smarts and a nose for profit. “I don’t believe in not taking opportunities,” he said, according to his unofficial biographer, Hamish McDonald.
Truth to be told- it took a lot more than just opportunity to turn Reliance into a Rs 75,000-crore (Rs 750-billion) colossus by the time Dhirubhai passed away in 2002. It took a rare kind of genius to succeed where so many others have tried and failed.
“Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one’s monopoly.”