Born into the family of a village school teacher in a small village called Chowrad in Gujarat, India, Dhirubai Ambani is an apt example for the rags to riches story. This dynamic entrepreneur founded Reliance Industries in the year 1958 and Reliance Industries is the first Indian company to be featured in the Forbes 500 list and was also featured among the list of Top 50 businessmen in Asia by Sunday Times.
Dhirubai was a highly precocious student. He made extra money while still at school by selling onion and vegetable fries during village fairs. Unfortunately, he had to discontinue his studies after matriculation as his father became very sick and could not support the family. He left to Aden (now a part of Yemen) to work as a clerk with a firm called A.Besse & Co. He was 16 years then. At Besse, Dhirubai later worked in the commodities section if the firm where he learnt a lot about trading and business. Every night, during his stay at the boarding house with several other Gujarati boys working as clerks, Dhirubai used to spend hours trying to learn and improve his English grammar, essay writing skills, knowledge about current affairs. Jawaharlal Nehru's 'The Glimpses of World History' and the 'Discovery of India' were his favourite books. Though he started reading these books as a means to improve his English vocabulary, these books opened to him a whole new world of adventure and human wisdom.
In 1958, he came back to India with a savings of Rs.50,000 to start a commodity trading and export firm with the name Reliance Commercial Corporation. Their first office was set up at the Narsinatha Street in Mumbai which was a 350 sq ft room with a telephone, one table and three chairs. Dhirubai was known to be a great risk taker. With his talent, knowledge about current affairs, keen business acumen and being able to anticipate price rises, Dhirubai was able to generate huge profits for Reliance Commercial Corporation.
In the year 1966, sensing a good opportunity in the business of textiles, Dhirubai set up a textile mill in Ahmedabad.These textiles were marketed by the brand name 'Vimal' and several franchisee outlets were set up in several parts of the country. This textile plant was also visited by a team of officials from the World Bank in the year 1975 and certified the textile plant as "excellent by developed country standards." Dhirubai convinced several rural investors that being share holders in the company would be a profitable venture to them and went public in the year 1977. Reliance has more than 58,000 investors and the company used to conduct its annual general body meetings in stadiums.
With the assistance of his two sons, Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani, Dhirubai Ambani successfully built the largest private sector company in India , Reliance India Limited. With time, the company diversified and forayed into several different sectors like petrochemicals, telecommunications, fianancial products, logistics, energy and power, information technology products. Dhirubai Ambani is said to have revolutionized the Indian industrial sector and is also credited with the honor of being the only privately owned Indian company is the list Forbes 500. He was able to generate million of rupees in wealth for his investors.
He was conferred with many awards and honours. He was voted the Top Businessman in the Best of India poll conducted by Zee News in August 2003. He was rated as India's Most Admired CEO for four consecutive years by the Business Barons - Taylor Nelson Sofres - Mode Surveys. He received the 'Lifetime Achievement Award' from HRD, Congress in the year 2002 and was conferred The Economic Times Award for Corporate Excellence for Lifetime Achievement in August 2001. He was conferred several other titles like Creator of Wealth , Man of the Century, Most Admired Indian business Leader, Star of Asia to name a few.
Dhirubai Ambani died on July 6, 2002 after being in a state of coma for more than a week resulted from a stroke. After his death the Reliance Group was split into two companies; Reliance Industies which is now headed by his son Mukesh Ambani and Relaince Anil Dhirubai Ambani Group headed by Anil Ambani.