Indian Businessman Anil Ambani has been known to tell aspiring entrepreneurs, “Work till your last breath. Work is worship.”
This fervent work ethic is not surprising for the former vice chairman and managing director of the Reliance Group, India’s largest private sector company. And while Ambani has won respect for his unrivaled toughness in negotiations, the one-time youth icon still enjoys rockstar-level celebrity in India. In 2006 he was honored as Businessman of the Year by the Times of India.
Today, Ambani leads Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, one of India’s top three private-sector business houses, with a $6 billion net worth. With India’s largest customer base of more than 50 million across several industries, the Reliance ADA Group is said to touch the lives of 1 in 10 Indians daily. Its business presence extends to 4,500 towns and 300,000 villages in India, and five continents across the world. Reliance was founded by Anil Ambani’s father, the late Dhirubhai Ambani, a shrewd ex-schoolteacher who built an empire from a simple textile-trading business and who taught his two sons the business.
In recognition of his achievements, Dhirubhai received the Wharton Dean’s Medal in 1998. Anil then started Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprises group with interests in telecom, energy, entertainment, and financial services. Since then, the company has continued to expand through a streak of high-profile acquisitions, mainly in entertainment and insurance.
Ambani joined Reliance as co-CEO after graduating from Wharton in 1983. He pioneered many financial innovations in Indian finance, including leading India’s first forays into overseas capital markets with international public offerings of global depositary receipts, convertibles, and bonds, as well as directing Reliance in its efforts to raise billions from overseas financial markets. His next big venture is Zabak.com. Reliance plans to invest $100 million into the online casual gaming business with an initial portfolio of 150 games.
A member of Wharton’s Board of Overseers and Executive Board for Asia, Ambani was the first recipient of the Wharton Indian Alumni Award. In 2006, he was chairman of the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Mumbai.