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Management lessons to be learnt from Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, better known as Dhirubhai Ambani, was one of India’s greatest visionaries and iconic business tycoons. He was the founder of Reliance Industries Limited (established in 1966) and contributed greatly to the company’s meteoric rise. Reliance Industries is now ranked among the world’s top 500 companies in terms of the revenue it generates. Dhirubhai Ambani also founded Reliance Capital and Reliance Power and remained a dominant figure in the textile, petroleum, power and infrastructure industries of India until his death in 2002. Dhirubhai’s rags-to-riches story remains one of the most retold legends of corporate India and is an inspiration to the youth of this nation.

Dhirubhai is credited with starting the equity cult in India. More than 58,000 investors from various parts of India subscribed to Reliance’s IPO in 1977. (Image source: RIL website; text source: R-ADAG & Wikipedia)

HE achieved what almost everybody would consider impossible. In a life spanning 69 years, he built from scratch India’s largest privately controlled corporate empire.  He was a man who aroused extreme responses in others. Either you loved him or you hated him. There was just no way you could have been indifferent to this amazing entrepreneur who thought big, acted tough, knew how to bend rules or have rules bent for him. He was a visionary as well as a manipulator, a man who communicated with the rich and the poor with equal felicity, who was generous beyond the call of duty with those whom he liked and utterly ruthless with his rivals – a man of many parts, of irreconcilable contrasts and paradoxes galore.

When he died, the Reliance group of companies that Dhirubhai led had a gross annual turnover in the region of Rs 75,000 crore or close to US $ 15 billion. The group’s interests include the manufacture of synthetic fibres, textiles and petrochemical products, oil and gas exploration, petroleum refining, besides telecommunications and financial services. In 1976-77, the Reliance group had an annual turnover of Rs 70 crore. Fifteen years later, this figure had jumped to Rs 3,000 crore. By the turn of the century, this amount had skyrocketed to Rs 60,000 crore. In a period of 25 years, the value of the Reliance group’s assets had jumped from Rs 33 crore to Rs 30,000 crore.

The textile tycoon’s meteoric rise was not without its fair share of controversy. In India and in most countries of the world, there exists a close nexus between business and politics. In the days of the licence control raj Dhirubhai, more than many of his fellow industrialists, understood and appreciated the importance of ‘managing the environment’, a euphemism for keeping politicians and bureaucrats happy.

His favourite quotes:

  • “Only when you dream it you can do it.”
  • “Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one’s monopoly”
  • “You do not require an invitation to make profits.”
  • “If you work with determination and with perfection, success will follow.”
  • “Pursue your goals even in the face of difficulties, and convert adversities into opportunities.”
  • “Meeting the deadlines is not good enough, beating the deadlines is my expectation.” “Don’t give up, courage is my conviction.”(Source: R-ADAG website)

He was fond of quotable quotes, one of these being: “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs”. There can be no better example of someone walking his talk so convincingly.

Well what is it that we can learn from this very successful Business Leader. Here are some lessons that can be learnt

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