Dhirubhai Ambani Biography
Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani was one of the founders of Reliance industries in Bombay. When he was 16 years old, he moved to Aden,Yemen. Initially, Dhirubhai worked as a dispatch clerk with A. Besse & Co. He also worked in Dubai for sometime. Dhirubhai returned to India and founded the Reliance Commercial Corporation with an initial capital of Rs 15000. Dhirubhai set up the business in partnership with Champaklal Damani from whom he parted ways in 1965. The Sunday Times figured him as one of the top 50 businessmen in Asia.
He was bestowed posthumously with Padma Vibhushan for his contributions towards the field of Trade and Industry.
Dhirubhai Ambani was born on 28 December 1932, at Chorwad, Junagadh in Gujarat. Married to Kokilaben, the couple has two sons and two daughters, Mukesh and Anil Ambani and Neena Kothari and Deepti Salgaonkar.
Dhirubhai started his first textile mill at Naroda, near Ahmedabad in 1966 and started the brand “Vimal”. Dhirubhai Ambani is credited with having started the equity cult in India. 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.
Dhirubhai courted controversy all throug his life. Many a times, he has been accused of unethical business practices and has been accused of having manipulated government policies to suit his own needs. He was involved in an open spat with Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing. The end to this tussle came only after Dhirubhai Ambani suffered a stroke. While Dhirubhai Ambani was recovering in San Diego, his sons Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani managed the affairs. The Indian Express had turned the guns against Reliance and was directly blaming the government for not doing enough to penalize Reliance Industries. The battle between Wadia-Goenka and the Ambanis took a new direction and became a national crisis. Gurumurthy and another journalist, Mulgaokar consorted with President Giani Zail Singh and ghost-wrote a hostile letter to the Prime Minister on his behalf. The Indian Express published a draft of the President’s letter as a scoop, not realizing that Zail Singh had made changes to the letter before sending it to Rajiv Gandhi. Ambani had won the battle at this point. Now, while the tussle was directly between the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Ramnath Goenka, Ambani made a quiet exit. The government then raided the Express guest house in Delhi’s Sunder Nagar and found the original draft with corrections in Mulgaokar’s handwriting. By 1988-89, Rajiv’s government retaliated with a series of prosecutions against the Indian Express. Even then, Goenka retained his iconic stature because, to many people, he seemed to be replaying his heroic defiance during the Emergency regime.
Awards and Recognitions
- Conferred Man of the Century award by Chemtech Foundation and Chemical Engineering World in recognition of his contribution to the growth and development of the chemical industry in India in November 2000.
- He was featured among Power 50-the most powerful people in Asia by Asiaweek magazine in 1996, 1998, 2000.
- “Dean’s Medal” by The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, for setting an outstanding example of leadership in June 1998.
- The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) named him the “Man of 20th Century”.
- The Times of India conducted a poll in 2000 and voted him “Greatest Creator of Wealth in the Centuries”.
- Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence for Lifetime Achievement in August 2001.
- Bestowed posthumously with the ABLF Global Asian Award at the Asian Business Leadership Forum Awards in October 2011.
- Awarded Padma Vibhushan, country’s second highest civilian award in January 2016.
Dhirubhai Ambani had suffered another stroke in February 1986 which had paralyzed his right hand. He suffered a brain stroke on 24 June, 2002 and was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. He passed away on 6 July, 2002. On Dhirubhai Ambani’s first death anniversary, the Union Government released a postage stamp in his memory.