The real and full name of Dhirubhai Ambani is Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani. He was famously called Dhirubhai Ambani after his successful venture into the markets. A man with humble beginnings, took the world by storm with his intelligent and innovative minds. Dhirubhai Ambani is the sole reason that changed the scene of Indian industries and was a very successful capitalist. With his knowledge about the stock market and how it can impact an economy, he put India on the global map with his business endeavours. He is considered a business tycoon for his economical prominence and the power he holds in the market scene. The founder of Reliance Industries and later he also dabbled into many business ventures. His legacy is truly a remarkable one and still stays strong long after he has gone.
Basic Information about Dhirubhai Ambani
Date of BIrth - December 28, 1932
Birthplace - Chorwad in Junagadh State, under the Western India States Agency in British Raj [that is present-day Gujarat in India]
Works- Founder of the Reliance Industries and credited for many more branches under Reliance corporation.
Awards- received Padma Vibhushan posthumously, in 2016.
Died on- July 6, 2002.
Dhirubhai Ambani’s Early Life in Ambani Family
Born to Hirachand Gordhanbhai Ambani and Jamnaben Ambani on December 28 1932, in his mother’s native place Chorwad in Junagadh State under the British Raj and is now Gujarat, India. Belonging to the Modh Baniya community like his father, who was a school teacher in the village. He was one of the three sons and had one sister. His brothers are Ramaniklal Ambani and Saurabh Patel and his sister Trilochana Ben. Dhirubhai Ambani lived a modest life with his parents and siblings.
He attained his primary education from the Bahadur Khanji school, and even in his younger years he was righteous and possessed leadership qualities. One such instance is during his youth, he participated in the protests against the Nawab of his own state Junagadh who was planning to join the Muslim clan in Pakistan post-independence.
At the age of 16, in the year 1948, Dhirubhai Ambani left for work in A. Besse and Co. in Port to Aden, Yemen. He worked there alongside his brother Ramaniklal as a clerk in a company that was considered the largest transcontinental trading firm in the 1950s in the east of Suez, Egypt. And in his course of work, he learnt trading and accounting. He sharpened his skills over the years.
His business acumen was evident even in those early years, as he made strides to achieve his ambitions of making more money. The silver bullion, which is the metal in bulk that was very popular then was widely sold. He went a step further and thought of selling the precursor of the bullion by melting the silver. He sold the pure silver and at a higher price too.
He was truly a financial wizard. His friends too described him as friendly, easy to talk to, with good nature and a cheerful personality. And the drive and ambition in him were always prominent. He worked with the Shell Oil Agents for a few years. And at the age of 23 in the year 1955, Dhirubhai Ambani tied the knot with Kokilaben, who was 21 at the time from Jamnagar. In the later years, Kokilaben always spoke of her husband’s support that got her through tough times away from family in India and how she cherished the time spent in those early years.
Dhirubhai Ambani wife, Kokilaben Ambani became a first time mother in Aden to Mukesh Ambani in the year 1957. In 1958, Dhirubhai along with his family shifted to India and settled in Mumbai. They were also blessed with three children Anil Ambani, Nina Ambani, Dipti Ambani. In the early years in Mumbai, they were living in a two-bedroom apartment in Bhuleshwar, a small neighbourhood.
In the first few years only, he partnered with his 2nd cousin Champaklal Damani and then included other relatives and friends to work with them as they started exporting spices to the Eastern and Asian countries. He was always a risk-taker, starting the business with just 15000 bucks and building from scratch. In these nascent years, the business was called Reliance Commercial Corporation. Their office was tiny, and the assistants helped him a great deal in setting up the business. Many members who joined Dhirubhai in the initial days were long associated with Reliance. He offered high-quality products and the profit margins accepted were also less than his other competitors, which led to rapid growth in his business.
After a few years, in 1965 due to temperamental differences, Dhirubhai separated from Champaklal and started his own. Then he mostly dealt with the export of polyester and it was his foray into the textile industry, and under the name of the label, ‘Vimal’ other clothing items like sarees, dresses, shawls and suits were sold. On May 8 1973 he changed the name Reliance Commercial Corporation to Reliance Industries.
And very soon, it held a name for itself even in the domestic market for its good quality products and with extensive endorsing of the same values in the Indian interiors. And there was no turning back since the dominance in the market began. He also delved into synthetic textiles when the commodities of his company were at their peak.
In 1966, he made his debut in backward integration and opened the Reliance Textile mill. And gradually built into the magnum petrochemical, plastic and power generation mammoth. In 1975, a technical team from the World Bank also paid a visit to their textile mill.
Building an Empire
Dhirubhai Ambani proposed for investing and finance from the National Banks, and on refusal, he made the company public in the year 1977. Dhirubhai also became the first face of Indian business who conquered the Industrial sector globally.
He also rallied with the Bombay Stock Exchange when he attained a huge profit from supplying his own shares to The Bear Cartel, who were trying to overtake him. There was a roar in the market about how he could make such a profit when the crisis fell on the entire nation. And to figure out the Bombay office was also closed for 3 days to figure out the workings. And Pranab Mukherjee, the then Prime Minister also came to his defence about the stock market and Dhirubhai’s works which were legal and by any means did not engage in unethical transaction procedures.
Even with many allegations of fraud and debauchery from the media and the market, the investors stood unshaken and trusted him. The investors never doubted Dhirubhai’s capability as a businessman and their shares and dividends value only grew. He was truly a maestro in the stock market and many people attended his meetings where he talked about it to gain knowledge. In fact, because of humongous crowds and many attendees from all the sectors, the meetings were held in stadiums and even televised to be aired for people.
Reliance Industries became the first-ever privately-owned Indian Company enlisted in the illustrious list of Fortune 500 in the year 2012. He lived a fine life with his family, children, and grandchildren.
Dhirubhai Ambani suffered from a stroke in February 1986 and shortly after handed over the business to his sons Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani. The brothers now run the business separately due to reasons and issues that shall remain private. The first stroke’s aftermath was paralysis of his right hand. And he suffered from a major stroke again in the year 2002 on June 24th and was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital, and breathed his last shortly after on July 6th 2002.
Honours and Recognition
In 2016, Dhirubhai Ambani was also honoured with the 2nd highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan after many years post his death for his excellent contribution to the Indian market and its economy.
In an unauthorized biography, by an Australian journalist Hamish McDonald in 1988, Dhirubhai was referred to and rightly so as, ‘The Polyester Prince.’
He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 by The Economic Times Awards on August 10th in Mumbai.
He became the first Indian ever, to receive the "Dean's Medal" by The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, in 1998 on June 15th for setting a remarkable example in leadership.
He was also featured in the Asiaweek magazine for 3 years, 1996, 1998 and 2000 in the list of 50 most powerful people of Asia.
Dhirubhai Ambani truly embodies greatness and humility in equal measure. Even after achieving so much wealth and fortune he always celebrated his roots and took pride in them. It is not easy to start from scratch and build an empire that lasts several generations. With support from his family, he was unstoppable. India takes pride in an icon like him that comes rarely.