Mukesh Ambani: Asia's richest man keeps his friends close, has a fixed salary since 10 years, and is a favourite headline name
The RIL Chairman turns 62 today.
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Earlier this week, he was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people along the likes of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, US President Donald Trump, and former US first lady Michelle Obama. In an introduction about Ambani for the magazine written by Anand Mahindra, who is also his close friend, the auto-maker recalls a time in 2003 when the RIL head 'promised Indians in a well-known advertising tagline that his company would put the world in the palm of your hand'. Mahindra goes on to write that 'it won’t be long before he delivers on that promise', adding that Reliance could give Amazon ‘a run for its money’.
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While making headlines is common-day activity for him, it’s not always for his gigantic oil and gas industry – which according to Forbes has a revenue of $60 billion. His twin children, Isha and Akash’s, lavish weddings grabbed international attention, and when he bailed his once-estranged younger brother Anil out by clearing a debt of Rs 453 crore dues in the Ericsson case – business headlines once again featured a family saga.
But for the man who has, and seems to be doing, it all, it’s often family first (overlooking his infamous fallout with Anil after the death of their father Dhirubhai Ambani in 2002).
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Born in Aden, Yemen to Dhirubhai Ambani, who at the time worked as a gas-station attendant, he was the eldest of four children. The family moved to Mumbai when Ambani was 7-years-old, living at the Bhuleshwar neighbourhood in Bombay – those were the simpler days. In the time to come, as Dhirubhai Ambani would go on to form Reliance, a lot would change.
The family moved from Bhuleshwar to Usha Kiran at Altamount Road and then to Sea Wind (they currently reside at the extravagant 27-storey Antilia), and Ambani went on to finish his chemical engineering from the University of Bombay, before heading to Stanford University for his MBA – which he left mid-way to join the family business in 1981. Ironically, Ambani’s daughter Isha went on to complete her MBA from Stanford University.
In 1985, Mukesh Ambani wed Nayantara Dalal – a school teacher – who, known as Nita Ambani after wedlock, would go on to play an important role both personally and professionally. Theirs was a love story custom-made for Indian cinema, Dhirubhai had spotted Nita at a dance programme and later called her to ask if she would meet his son. During their courtship, Mukesh Ambani would drive his green Fiat for three hours from Patalganga - where the Ambanis were building a plant at the time – to Mumbai to meet his then- fiancée, and eventually popped the question at a busy intersection in Mumbai. The story blossomed in front of the Piramals – who are now their daughter Isha’s in-laws.
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All along the way, Ambani – who draws a fixed salary Rs 15 crore since 2009 - has kept his friends close. In a 2007 interview to MoneyLIFE, Ambani had said that while from an external perspective his life had changed – but personally he saw consistency.
His childhood friend, Anand Jain, who has known him since sixth grade and was often referred to as Dhirubhai's 'third son', was a prominent voice at Reliance (he is no longer actively involved), while college friend, Manoj Modi was often credited with being the man who saw the completion of Reliance’s projects.
Even now, as the telecom, retail and energy conglomerate continues to grow, it remains a family-run show, with Ambani often giving the credit of the idea behind Jio to his children.
Dishing out some important life and business lessons, Ambani - who has said that 'anything and everything that can go digital is going digital' - had revealed that he learnt in college how it's not just about solving the problems, but rather about first spotting them and then solving them.