Dhirubhai Ambani: the Legendary Industrialist
Ahmedabad, 6 July 2012
John D. Rockefeller, the legendary industrialist founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. Almost 100 years later around same time, Dhirajlal H. Ambani appeared on the Indian industries’ horizon with his company Reliance. Whereas Rockefeller gradually gained control of oil refining and marketing in the United States through horizontal integration, Dhirubhai took the vertical backward integration route and commanded supremacy in the business of oil refining and petrochemicals.
After ten years of passing away of Dhirubhai, it just occurred as to what it is to be a legendary industrialist. While comparison is not the intention, probing coincidences is certainly an interest. Rockefeller retired in 1897 after a brilliant business stint of about three decades. Dhirubhai too created the gigantic industrial empire in three decades which is impossible and unimaginable by any standard. But that is why Dhirubhai is a legend.
Like Steve Jobs, achievements of Dhirubhai Ambani too were what most businessmen would only dream. In case of both Steve Jobs and Dhirubhai, a common factor is both were self made billionaires. Both came from a humble background. Both began in a modest way; Steve Jobs from a garage and Dhirubhai from sharing a table-space. Both didn’t graduate college, Steve quit it because it was too expensive and Dhirubhai could not go at all for the simple reason perhaps that matriculation itself was considered a good education in lower middle class Indian families those days. Also, Dhirubhai had a strange urge of earning money from school days; a typical Gujarati baniya trait.
‘Focus on your goals and not on your problems to succeed’ seemed to be the life-time formula practiced by the legendary people like Dhirubhai or Steves or even Rockefeller for that matter. They challenged the status quo and created something unique, something new, something fabulous and fantastic.
But still Dhirubhai was different of all. He bore a great warrior within himself. His meteoric rise, though of envy to many, was not as smooth as it appeared. He faced several odds and oppositions; fought adversities and challenges. All his fights became a lesson in management.
Whether an attack of a bear-cartel or from a media magnet, undeterred was he, Dhirubhai remained focused through out and created assets of economic significance for India and contributed a great deal for the nation. He introduced newer products and technologies in the country. He operated at a scale no one ever thought of doing before him.
Though Dhirubhai was known for his enterprising spirit and business skills, the value he created for his share-holders, the number of employment he generated during construction of his projects, the kind of infrastructure he created for his employees and neighbors of his industrial complexes, the kind of sustainable development approach he showed, etc speak volumes of his philanthropic disposition.
Rockefeller did live 40 years of his retired life to steer philanthropic pursuits. Dhirubhai’s philanthropist legacy is pursued in right earnest by Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani under several banners such as Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation, Reliance Foundation, Reliance Rural Development Trust, etc.
(Shri Parimal Nathwani is Group President, Corporate Affairs of Reliance Industries Limited; and Member of Rajya Sabha.)
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