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The Rise Of Dhirubhai Ambani

(This blog's author is attempting to return to the fold, as it were. This is not the first attempt nor I suspect the last. The plot this time round is to make it simpler, shorter and easier to read. Which may prompt the conclusion that it was not so earlier. True, is the author's own objective assessment.)

Actually the book is called The Polyester Prince. Copies of the book suddenly appeared all over Mumbai on Sunday evening at traffic signals and pavement book shops. Prices ranged from Rs 100 to Rs 400 I was told. A colleague picked it up at Rs 100, the urchin selling it at a traffic signal in central Mumbai quoted Rs 250. The timing of the book's release - a day before Anil Ambani's mega Reliance Energy IPO opens for subscription - is curious to say the least.

The Polyester Prince was first published in 1998 and was supposed to be an authorised biography of the late industrialist. Somewhere along the way, possibly following a somewhat negative article the author (Hamish McDonald) wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the two fell out. McDonald went on to write the book and published it.

McDonald provides interesting and less known insights into Dhirubhai's childhood. His birth in Chorwad, his time in Aden where he demonstrated his entrepreneurial bent and the birth of the textile and petrochemical giant that is Reliance today. But the book also prises open the lids on episodes the Ambanis would surely want to put behind - for instance, the fascinating story and events that led to the arrest of Kirti Ambani, a Reliance employee, on charges of conspiring to murder Dhirubhai rival Nusli Wadia.

Incidentally, the book was banned ten years ago and has till date stayed out of circulation. What was selling on the streets yesterday is the pirated version of a banned title. Most enterprising, one would think, even as you wonder why now. I guess Dhirubhai himself would have said, "Nobody is a permanent friend. Nobody is a permanent enemy. Everybody has his own self-interest. Once you recognise that, everybody would be better off."

Comments

anand said…
Who is Ambani? A good business man, but also a cheat. He manipulated the license raj for his own benefit.His success is not purely good management-it is also corruption.

If you want business heros, just look at the managements of BSNL and SBI. Their IPOs will put Reliance to shame. The top management, although poorly paid and within the confines of the public sector,have done muct greater things. Besides, they share the wealth they create instead of keeping it for themselves.
Amit said…
i NEVER though even five years ago we woudl be seeing PSUs run much better than private cos
Abhi 2.0 said…
welcome back! one more tiny bit of feedback ... more URLs/links pls .. makes up for the shortness of posts by pointing ppl who want to dig deeper!

100 bucks!! i got fleeced... picked it up at the extreme upper end of the price range :-(

Have read about half of it ... not that damning ... i think they gave it more publicity by banning it!
I'd like to use this platform to make a clarification, if I may.

My name is Hamish MacDonald. I'm a fiction writer in Scotland, and the holder of the domain name hamishmacdonald.com. Please note the spelling: M-A-C Donald.

An Australian journalist named Hamish McDonald (M-C, not M-A-C) is the author of The Polyester Prince. I have no connection to him whatsoever, yet I receive an awful lot of correspondence from people looking for this book. I honestly can't help in any way with that.

Ambani sounds like an interesting character, but please, please -- no more letters about this book!

All the best to the readers of this blog, and good luck finding the book. You'd think with all the interest the publisher would be willing to do a reprint.

Cheers,
- Hamish MacDonald
Whats more interesting about the IPO is, everyone wants to buy the shares. This interest is only second to the interest shown in Tata Nano by the Public. Though certain PSUs have shown remarkable turn-arounds, Reliance enjoys a lot of public confidence. After watching the movie Guru(Abisheks performance was a stunner), I was looking out for a book on Ambani. Would be glad if it is available in Chennai.
Anonymous said…
Hamish, sorry about that, yes, there is a sudden and unusual interest in the Prince, after a long hiatus.

Am sure the author would love to get the book reprinted, at least for commercial reasons. Problem is it is still banned in India, amongst the handful of books that have been and surely the loner in its category !
Meanwhile, most of my friends have picked up a copy including of course Abhi 2.0 who refers to it here..!

GE
TOR Hershman said…
You have a extremely interesting blog.
Shreyash said…
Good to see that you are back after this long hiatus.

Ambani has been the most talked about business man post independence I would say but he hasn't got his due till now. He did bad things possibly but in those days, I cannot quote a name who didn't. The only reason he gets all the brickbats and not so many bouquets was because he was much more successful than others.
Also, if you talk to a Reliance shareholder (I mean those who got it early), they will only have good things to say about him (much unlike anand here).

Keep writing.
hmmmmmmm
pretty interesting..
and finally a comeback....

:)
ah!
Mr. Hamilton!!
Anand said…
Hi shreyas,
Thanks for your resposne to my comment. No where did I say that he was not good for his OWN shareholders. They certainly got good returns.
BUT:
All his high returns are not based on better management than his competitors. Much of his success is in manipulating license RAJ to his own benefit. He gets ministries to bend to hsi desiers-just see waht happened in CDMA market.

The true heros are PSU managements. they have now got excellent market cap - all while workign under termondous constaints. The BSNL management was hampered by many policies designed to favour Reliance, but still prevailed.

What is more, just compare the value they create to the compensation they get to know what good managers they are !!!
Prashant Sakare said…
Welcom again.
Ambani will never get a brand image of Tata. he had done a lot of corruption in his days. India people have got now fashion to speak against the PSUs.
Anand Gadiyar said…
Welcome back man. Keep writing.
Love him or hate him, he achieved which no other indian has done.

I was gooogling about this book and finally ended up at this interesting blog, never knew the pirated copies of this book were being sold.Anyways waiting to get my hands on it.Any SELLERS out there.(do contact me)

Anyways people there is another interesting read about the ambani wars ,check that out.Its aptly titled Ambani vs Ambani, Storms in the sea wind by Alam Srinivas.
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Anonymous said…
Can any of you make 1 lakh crore( 1,00,000,0000000) in a thousand lifetimes ?

Forget 1 lifetime.
Ambani did that. Even if you are a hardcore criminal you cannot make 1000 crores....so think what you guys are talking about

Business is war ....there are no ethics...there are no rules.....the tough win..

What he did is probably proof of God's existence.

Can you even possibly imagine the difference on the day Ambanis father asked him to stop studies and earn for the family ?

And the day he ruled the Indian government and made ministers dance at the tips of his fingers?

Ambani is my hero - my God! no matter how corrupt
Saurabh Jadhav said…
How can you say that Ambani is cheat?
He did manage to create employment for thousands of people in the country. Besides I know people who just become rich only on reliance shares.
And about PSUs... Please dont tell lie boss!! PSU's are so much currupted.. I have seen the people in here not working properly even for 3 hours a day.. Its just because they had monopoly over resources they could survive and that too many of them still hold that monopoly..
In India ,there is a problem with our mentality. We can appriciate a Brit or US born to rule the country and make forey into Indian markets. But if our own man grows that fast we cant take it at all..
We just start to find the flaws and problems in his growth.
As you are reporter you may have very good family background and upbringing compared to dhirubhai.. Then why the author could not become the owner of the largest company. And dont tell me you did not even bribed once to anyone. It is practically impossible in India may not be in terms of cash but may be some favours.. So if you do theft of Rs.5 or Rs.10000 Crores thats not a point, its still a crime. So you want to suggest that All Indians are cheat?
I dont know why we cannot appriciate success of our man!! He has done nobody could never imagined to do. Just being a practical person is not a criminal my friend. And even you will agree that license raj was never a good policy. So its his way of revolt against that. I dont see anything wrong in that.
Dhirubhai is an Indian Idol.. Whatever you want to write you can.. but the truth is he was one of his kind..whichever way u take it

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