|December 28, 1932(1932-12-28)
Chorwad, Gujarat, India
|July 6, 2002 (aged 69)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Dhirubhai Ambani was born on 28 December 1932, at Chorwad, Junagadh in the now state of Gujarat, India. He worked as a dispatch clerk with A. Besse & Co. Two years later A. Besse & Co. became the distributors for Shell products and Dhirubhai was promoted to manage the company’s oil-filling station at the port of Aden.
He was married to Kokilaben and had two sons, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, and two daughters, Nina Kothari and Deepti. He also worked in Aden, Yemen. for some time during his early years. A short Biography of Dhirubhai Ambani is available on Reliance Communications Ltd.
Life in Aden
Kokilaben and Dhirubhai Ambani, In the 1950s, the Yemini administration realized that their main unit of currency, the Rial, was disappearing fast. Upon launching an investigation, they realized that a lot of Rials were being routed to the Port City of Aden. It was found that a young man in his twenties was placing unlimited buy orders for Yemini Rials.
During those days, the Yemini Rial was made of pure silver coins and was in much demand at the London Bullion Exchange. Young Dhirubhai bought the Rials, melted them into pure silver and sold it to the bullion traders in London. During the latter part of his life, while talking to reporters, it is believed that he said “The margins were small but it was money for jam. After three months, it was stopped. But I made a few lakhs. In short, I was a manipulator. A very good manipulator. But I don’t believe in not taking opportunities.
Reliance Commercial Corporation
Ten years later, Dhirubhai returned to India and started the Reliance Commercial Corporation with a capital of Rs.15,000.00. The primary business of Reliance Commercial Corporation was to import polyester yarn and export spices.
The business was setup in partnership with Champaklal Damani, his second cousin, who used to be with him in Aden, Yemen. The first office of the Reliance Commercial Corporation was set up at the Narsinathan Street in Masjid Bunder. It was a 350 Sq. Ft. room with a telephone, one table and three chairs. Initially, they had two assistants to help them with their business. In 1965, Champaklal Damani and Dhirubhai Ambani ended their partnership and Dhirubhai started on his own. It is believed that both had different temperaments and a different take on how to conduct business. While Mr. Damani was a cautious trader and did not believe in building yarn inventories, Dhirubhai was a known risk taker and he considered that building inventories, anticipating a price rise, and making profits through that was good for growth.
During this period, Dhirubhai and his family used to stay in one bedroom apartment at the Jaihind Estate in Bhuleshwar. Mumbai.In 1968, he moved to an upmarket apartment at Altamount Road in South Mumbai.
Reliance Textiles Sensing a good opportunity in the textile business, Dhirubhai started his first textile mill at Naroda, in Ahmedabad in the year 1966. Textiles were manufactured using polyester fibre yarn. Dhirubhai started the brand “Vimal”, which was named after his elder brother Ramaniklal Ambani’s son, Vimal Ambani. Extensive marketing of the brand “Vimal” in the interiors of India made it a household name. Franchise retail outlets were started and they used to sell “only Vimal” brand of textiles. In the year 1975, a Technical team from the World Bank visited the Reliance Textiles’ Manufacturing unit. This unit has the rare distinction of being certified as “excellent even by developed country standards” during that period.
Despite his almost Midas Touch, Ambani has been known to have flexible values and an unethical streak running through him. His biographer himself has cited some instances of his unethical behavior when he was just an ordinary employee at a petrol pump in Dubai. He has been accused of having manipulated government policies to suit his own needs, and has been known to be a king-maker in government elections. Although most media sources tend to speak out about business-politics nexus, the Ambani house has always enjoyed more protection and shelter from the media storms that sweep across the country.
Dhirubhai Ambani was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on June 24, 2002 after he suffered a major “brain stroke”. This was his second stroke, the first one had occurred in February 1986 and had kept his right hand paralyzed. He was in a state of coma for more than a week. A battery of doctors were unable to save his life. He breathed his last on July 6, 2002, at around 11:50 P.M. (Indian Standard Time).
His funeral procession was not only attended by business people, politicians and celebrities but also by thousands of ordinary people. His elder son, Mukesh Ambani, performed the last rites as per Hindu traditions. He was cremated at the Chandanwadi Crematorium in Mumbai at around 4:30 PM (Indian Standard Time) on July 7, 2002.
Dhirubhai Ambani started his long journey in Bombay from the Mulji-Jetha Textile Market, where he started as a small-trader. As a mark of respect to this great businessman, The Mumbai Textile Merchants’ decided to keep the market closed on July 8, 2002. At the time of Dhirubhai’s death, Reliance Group had a gross turnover of Rs. 75,000 Crore or USD $ 15 Billion. In 1976-77, the Reliance group had an annual turnover of Rs 70 crore and Dhirubhai had started the business with Rs.15,000(US$350).