Dhirubhai Ambani: A University Personified

By Parimal Nathwani
Fourteen years have passed since Founder Chairman of Reliance Group Dhirubhai Ambani left this mundane world for heavenly abode. But his memories are still afresh in minds of me and my colleagues working at Reliance. It is quite natural to remember him on every small occasion in daily life. Dhirubhai was able to convert his intuitions in action. This is why he could achieve great things in life and became a great man despite humble beginning.

Dhirubhai could get formal education till matriculation and he regretted not attaining higher education. However, sometimes it is felt that had the country got Dhirubhai, which we know, if he would have obtained higher education? Who would have taught us that perfect project management and implementation in time bound manner is possible in India; adversity can be converted into opportunity; and one can stand firm and face challenges how so ever big they are. This is why he was ‘One Man University’.

Highly educated people frequently use the phrase: ‘Think out of Box’. But what is ‘Out of Box’? Even the highly educated people are baffled when it comes to define the term. Dhirubhai used to think ‘Out of Box’. Not only this, he used to convert thinking into action in ‘Out of Box’ manner. Which business school in the world teaches to set up cowsheds and arrange fodder for the animals in the remotest areas of Saurashtra? Which school teaches how tohelp the artisans,devastated by natural calamities? Only Dhirubhai’snatural instincts and intuitions can teach us. People of our country can talk on telephone at cost of postcard, or the world’s biggest mango orchard can be set up in the semi-arid land of Jamnagar and that also in the shadows of tall chimneys of refinery or involving middle class people in one’s business or raising money at lower interest rate from the global market. Take any of this and you would realize that only Dhirubhai’s revolutionary thinking can do it. This is ‘Out of Box’.

Dhirubhai never used to give lectures or advice to anybody. His behavior and actions used to teach a lot. His life has taught a lot. He didn’t use to provide bookish knowledge but he used to give practical knowledge, which can be used for decades.

For Dhirubhai, people working in Reliance were not employees but family members. This is why he could strike conversation with equal ease irrespective of the other person’s position or rank, be it peon/gateman or CEO of any corporate. He provided much needed space to the other person, so that he/she could open up and express his/her views. This is why no one hesitated to approach him, paving the way for flaw of information. Moreover, he had adopted open door policy for a selected few in his office, so he could get information about important developments around and important works are not delayed sans his permission.

I still remember that when the refinery work was in progress, he used to call me at sharp 9.30 in the morning: “Parimal, what’s happening?”. This allowed me to speak to him without any hesitation and I used to provide all the information not only about the process in the project implementation but other things also. Moreover, I could discuss about the difficulties and challenges faced by me. Surprisingly, he had answers to all my problems. Half of my problems could be solved by only talking to him. It was a routine and regular practice for him to call important functionaries in the morning time only and get information.

Dhirubhai used to say: “We must learn to trust. Distrust kills initiative. Distrust compels people to maneuver and manipulate. Trust and transparency simulates entrepreneurship.” His thinking provides much needed boost in adverse situation, so it is quite natural to remember Dhirubhai: A University Personified, on his death anniversary.

(Shri Parimal Nathwani is Group President of Corporate Affairs at Reliance Industries and Member of Rajya Sabha)

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