Dhirubhai Ambani: From gas station attendant to Founder of Reliance Industries Group; awards, achievements


Industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani founded Reliance Industries, which now is India’s largest listed company. File Photo

Next week, July 6, 2021, marks the death anniversary of Dhirubhai Ambani, one of the greatest Indian entrepreneurs of all times and an inspiration for many. Industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani founded Reliance Industries, which now is India’s largest listed company. However, his beginnings were humble. Dhirubhai Ambani was born Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani in December 1932, to a village school teacher and his wife. His family migrated to Aden, where Dhirubhai Ambani worked as a gas station attendant and then as a clerk at A Besse & Co — the then largest transcontinental trading firm east of Suez.

In those days Aden was the second busiest trading and oil bunkering port in the world. At A Besse & Co, Dhirubhai Ambani learnt commodity trading, high seas purchase and sales, marketing and distribution, currency trading, and money management. During his days at Besse, he met traders from all parts of Europe, Africa, India, Japan and China.

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That time, goods landed at the Aden port from all parts of the world, and were dispatched to different continents. Dhirubhai Ambani wanted to learn trading but he was short of money. So, in order to learn trading, he started working for free for a Gujarati trading firm. There he learnt trading, accounting, bookkeeping, preparing shipping papers and documents, and dealt with banks and insurance companies. At the Besse office, he improved his skills typing, drafting commercial letters, and composing legal documents.

In 1958, Dhurubhai came back to Bombay (now, Mumbai) and launched himself as a spice trader under the name of Reliance Commercial Corporation. He then started making rounds of Bombay’s wholesale spice market, collecting quotations of various items for bulk purchase on immediate down payment terms. After a few years, Dhirubhai was elected a director of the Bombay Yarn Merchants Association. In the mid-sixties, a government scheme for import of nylon yarn was introduced, against the export of rayon fabrics. He established his independent manufacturing unit. In 1966, Reliance was founded as a textile mill, which continued to be a textile company until the early eighties.

Dhirubhai Ambani’s awards and achievements

– The RIL AGM of 1986 was held in Cross Maidan, Mumbai, and was attended by more than 35,000 shareholders. It was the first private sector company in India whose AGM was held in a stadium.

– Dhirubhai Ambani became the only Indian industrialist to be featured as one of Asia’s 50 most powerful people in 1998 by Asia Week magazine.

– In 1998, Dhirubhai Ambani was the first Indian to receive Wharton School Dean’s Medal, University of Pennsylvania, for his achievements in building the largest private sector company of the country.

– In 1999, Dhirubhai Ambani emerged as ‘India’s Most Admired CEO’ in the Taylor Nelson Sofres-Mode (TNS Mode) survey.

– In 2000, FICCI conferred the ‘Indian Entrepreneur of the 20th Century’ award to Dhuribahi Ambani, at a special function at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

– In 2004, Reliance Industries Ltd became the first Indian private sector company to be listed in the Fortune Global 500 list.

– In 2016, Dhirubhai Ambani was honored posthumously with Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor for his exceptional service to trade and industry.

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