‘We don’t make excuses’

The centre, which will be completed by end-2003, will accommodate nearly 5,000 people, experts in various fields. The dream of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, it has been brought to life by Mukesh Ambani, 44, the current chairman and managing director of the group. For over 90 minutes, Ambani took time off his hectic schedule to talk to V Gangadhar on the group's vision.

The giants of Indian industry, from the Tata and Birla families, were remote figures, revered but not close to people. The late Dhirubhai Ambani was different; many considered him to be a 'people's industrialist.' How did this happen?
Papa never forgot the fact that the family was part of the millions who constituted the Indian middle class. He started the equity culture, which attracted millions; and he sold the idea of investment in an era of high taxes and saw to it that his investors got handsome returns. All his efforts were to help the middle class.

Thanks to Reliance, the prices of polyester fell from Rs 320 a kg in 1982 to Rs 57, and India became the second largest producer of polyester. So it has been with plastics, refining crude, natural gas and telecommunications.

In June 2002, he said it was his aim to make a phone call cheaper than a postcard, and that has come true. He had the foresight to invest Rs 1,000 crore in the hydrocarbon sector, got the best people to work in that business, and very soon millions of people will be supplied with natural gas that is much cheaper than LPG. His dream of making India a better place for its people brought him closer to them.

Yet the same Dhirubhai was the target of criticism by the media and politicians. How did your father react?
His philosophy, at all times, was simple. “I am accountable to myself, my conscience and God. Nothing else matters.“ There were no feelings of anger or thirst for revenge. “Theek hain, dekh lenge,“ and he would shrug off the attacks. He never developed a negative attitude even when some of the attacks were at a highly personal level.

Now that the company has gone through a generation change process, will there by any difference in management style?
I don't think so. Look, Papa was always thinking of the next 10, 20 years, and made plans accordingly. We are working on the ideas he had conceived and it will take some time to complete the process. His plans are good enough to guide us in future.