Who was Dhirubhai Ambani?
Here in this Dhirubhai Ambani Biography, we have shared detailed information about Dhirubhai Ambani.
Fondly called Dhirubhai, his full name was Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani. His name is counted amongst India’s greatest business tycoons. He was no ordinary man. His vision helped establish the iconic Reliance Industries Limited in 1966 and took it to heights that were difficult to even imagine. Now a Fortune 500 company, Reliance Industries is one of the world’s highest revenue-generating companies. The name Reliance is also associated with Reliance Capital and Reliance Power. Both of these companies were also established by Dhirubhai Ambani. He kept a diverse portfolio and did not believe in putting all the eggs in one basket. This is why he was a big name in the textile, petroleum, infrastructure, and power industries until his death in 2002. His is a true rags-to-riches story of the stuff that legends are made of; and that’s exactly what the man was – a legend!
Dhirubhai Ambani: Early Life and Education
Born on December 28, 1932, in the pre-independent India in the Chorwad village in district Junagadh, Gujarat, his parents – father Hirachand Govardhandas Ambani and mother Jamunaben Hirachand Ambani – were from a Modh Baniya family. Dhirubhai’s father – Hirachand – was a simple school teacher and so the Dhirubhai Ambani family had limited means with which they gave all they could to their five children – Dhirubhai, Ramnikbhai, Jasuben, and Natubhai. While Dhirubhai’s father was a school teacher, Dhirubhai was barely interested in formal education. He was, however, street smart, intelligent, and wonderfully persistent.
Throughout his teenage, Dhirubhai started numerous ventures. He was an excellent businessman and a great salesman. He worked in retail; sold fritters at various stalls he set up, even sold oil to help his cash-strapped family. He helped his family with whatever he could; never asking, always giving. Once he completed studying at the village school upto what we would today consider class 5, his family sent him to Junagarh so he could study further. While he was not a brilliant student by any means, he did display excellent leadership skills – skills that proved to be his greatest gift later in life.
When India gained independence, Dhirubhai beat all odds and went against the Nawab of Junagarh. The Nawab had placed a ban on the display of the Indian Flag. Dhirubhai’s organizational skills came in handy and his confidence was on full display as he gave a moving speech which inspired many to defy the police and the Nawab’s security officers to celebrate the entity that was now India. But the Nawab still refused to join the Republic of India and this is where Dhirubhai stepped in. He took an active part in protests, gave numerous speeches, and became an important figure amongst the patriotic rebels who wanted to overturn the Nawab’s decision on not joining the Indian Republic. This movement gained traction and the Nawab had to yield, leading to Junagarh’s accession to independent India.
Dhirubhai Ambani, the teenager, was full of dreams of a new India which was progressive and pro-development. He knew that a country starting from scratch depended on its industries and that this was a time to make big dreams come true. This was his dream for his country and for himself – to establish an industrious society focused on progress. But, by this time, his father’s health was failing and the responsibility of the family fell on Dhirubhai. He had to give up his education and he set off to Aden to look for work to help support his family.
Dhirubhai Ambani: Setting up a Career
Aden was one of the busiest ports of the world when Dhirubhai Ambani reached there. He initially worked as a clerk with one of the biggest trading firms there – A. Besse & Co. This is where he learned about things that helped him his entire life. Things like marketing, sales, distribution, imports and exports, wholesale merchandising and other tricks of the trade. He had the opportunity to meet people from various countries and from them, he learned currency trading. He would often moonlight at a Gujarati trading firm and learned accounting, bookkeeping, and legal documents drafting there. All this helped him realize that he possessed a natural flair for trading. In 1954, he married Kokilaben and started working at the Shell Oil Refinery in Aden. This is where his dreams of owning a refinery started taking shape. Later, while Indians in Aden migrated to Britain, Dhirubhai moved to India and started working on his dream of becoming an industrialist who paved the way for the nation’s progress.
Since he lacked funds to set up a significant business on his own, Dhirubhai contacted his Arabian associates and offered to provide spices, sugar and other similar commodities in bulk and wholesale prices. This gave birth to Reliance Commercial Corporation. Trust became one of the hallmarks of Reliance.
Dhirubhai Ambani: The Polyester Prince
Through his trustworthy and honest trade practices, Dhirubhai developed a reputation for being a dependable smart businessman. If he needed funds, he approached Gujarati money lenders and immediately received loans based on his excellent reputation. He repaid the loans with great interest and bonuses even! Another great practice he followed was to share his profits with his employees and investors. But he soon realized that commodities had a glass ceiling and he had reached it. This is when he took a considerable risk – he diversified into yarn. Textiles, during these days, were considered risky business. The prices were not constant and even the fluctuations were too high to invest money in this industry. But Dhirubhai was an astute man, and he quickly realized that there is great money in this industry if he played his hand well.
He established a textile mill in Naroda, but it wasn’t easy at all. All other mill owners were opposed to the idea of selling Vimal which was a polyester brand, so Dhirubhai went straight to retailers instead of taking the regular wholesaler to the retailer route. The fabric gained popularity almost immediately and retailers actually started selling ‘Only Vimal’ when Dhirubhai Ambani persuaded them. His marketing strategy worked wonders and soon all of India was wearing clothes made of textiles that came from the Reliance factory. Dhirubhai also made sure his factory was always equipped with the best technology and top-class machines so that his factory was always ahead of the competition and could manage to meet the rising demands.
Reliance Industries grew at a rate that no one had seen, expected, or even imagined! In the mid-1970s, Reliance had a turnover of INR 70 crores. This shot up to INR 75000 crore empires at the time of Dhirubhai’s death in 2002. After his death, his sons Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani took over the charge of Reliance industries and Dhurbhai became a national hero.