New Delhi: Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, who rewrote Indian corporate history and built a truly global corporate group, was the most enterprising Indian entrepreneur. He started his entrepreneurial career by selling 'bhajias' to pilgrims in Mount Girnar. His life journey is reminiscent of the rags to riches story.

Born on December 28, 1932, in Gujarat's Chorwad, Dhirubhai, after doing his matriculation in 1948, moved to Aden in 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. He started 'Majin' (company) in partnership with Champaklal Damani, his cousin, who used to work with him in Yemen. Majin was to import polyester yarn and export spices to Yemen. The first office of the Reliance Commercial Corporation, a 350 sq ft room with a telephone, one table and three chairs, was set up at the Narsinatha Street in Masjid Bunder. In 1965, Champaklal and Dhirubhai ended their partnership. 

Remembering Dhirubhai Ambani

True entrepreneurship comes only from risk-taking

Dhirubhai was a known risk-taker and believed in building inventories, anticipating a price rise, and making profits. By 1970, his net worth was estimated at approximately Rs 1 million.

He built India's largest private sector company, Reliance India Limited. From nothing, he generated billions of rupees in wealth for those who put their trust in his companies. In 80s, Reliance became a favorite of the stock market. Today, his company with over 85,000 employees, provides 5 percent of the total tax revenue Central Government of India.

In 1992, Reliance became the first Indian company to raise money in global markets. Reliance was became the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

He suffered a major stroke in 1986 and his right hand paralyzed. 

Dhirubhai 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'.

Today, he is is credited with shaping India's equity culture, attracting millions of retail investors in a market. He revolutionised the India's capital markets.  

Dhirubhai was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on June 24, 2002 after he suffered a major stroke again. A number of doctors treated him but was of no use. He died on July 6, 2002. 

Awards and Recognitions

  • October 2011 - Awarded posthumously the ABLF Global Asian Award at the Asian Business Leadership Forum Awards.
  • November 2000 - Conferred 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.
  • 2000, 1998 and 1996 - Featured among Power 50 - The Most Powerful People in Asia by Asiaweek magazine.
  • June 1998 - Dean's Medal by The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, for setting an outstanding example of leadership. Dhirubhai Ambani has the rare distinction of being the first Indian to get Wharton School Dean's Medal.
  • August 2001 - Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Dhirubhai Ambani was named the Man of 20th Century by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

(Abhinav Ranjan/JPN/Agencies)

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