Shri Mukesh Ambani has been the richest man in India for eight consecutive years. He was once a contender for being the richest man worldwide back in 2008. The business magnate is currently the Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd., one of the biggest private firms in the country. Reliance has interests in refining, oil and gas, petrochemicals, retail, telecom, and media. As of 2014, Ambani has $20.7 billion net worth and owns around 45% of the firm.

Early Life and Education

The 57-year-old businessman is the eldest son of Dhirubhai Ambani, Founder of Reliance Industries, and Kokilaben Ambani. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mumbai. Mukesh was pursuing an MBA from Stanford University when he dropped out to help his father in constructing a polyester filament yarn plant following it obtained a license from the Indian government in 1981 to create polyester filament yarn.

His father established the Reliance in 1957 to provide textile yarns to textile producers. Then, Dhirubhai decided to get into textile manufacturing in mid 1960s and put up his factory six years later. The firm came out with an initial public offering in 1977 due to lack of proper distribution arm and shortage of funding. Reliance realized $1.8 million and began the capital markets culture in India in the process.

Joining Reliance

Mukesh joined the company in 1981 and supervised its backward integration from polyester to textiles, and then petrochemicals five years later, as well as oil and gas exploration, among other unrelated sectors. The firm set up a new petroleum subsidiary in 1991 and launched its IPO in 1993, the largest public offering in India at that time. Between 1993 and 1994, Reliance issued Global Depository Receipts in Luxembourg, being the first Indian firm to do such.

In 1997, the Indian company secured a permit to build its oil refinery at Jamnagar, Gujarat, which was commissioned after two years. Still in 1999, Reliance won 12 oil blocks for exploration Krishna-Godavari Basin (KG-D6) in the Bay of Bengal. And in 2002, the company extended into the telecom sector and had expanded its refining operations at the same time.

Mukesh and Anil, his younger brother, had jointly run the business while their father was still alive. But in 2005, the business was divided between them. Mukesh retains the oil and gas business, while Anil has finance, infrastructure, and telecom.

During his tenure in Reliance, revenues escalated more than six times and profits about three times since 2005. But its stock has been sinking for the last two years, partially because of its corporate governance issues and vague corporate structure. The output from the KG-D6 basin was not as high as projected, pressing Reliance to impose a higher price from the government for its gas.

The company’s future growth is manifested through the Indian entrepreneur’s invasion into retail, 4G wireless broadband, and media. It has already inaugurated its online service for Reliance Fresh, a brick-and-mortar grocery business. It has also entered the telecom arena again with its 4G broadband venture. In May, Reliance paid $655 million for acquiring Network18, an Indian television company which owns various TV channels such as CNBC Tv18 and CNN-iBN. Aside from that, it obtained shares in an online tutoring company in order to expand the services it can deliver through 4G.

Not-So-Good Publicity

Reliance has been losing the public image battle due to accusations of crony capitalism and all the bad publicity related to it. There are also serious allegations the Indian company is using its personal relations for getting favorable deals. When Reliance purchased Network18, it created hullabaloo in the country over the firm’s intentions. Majority were also thinking if Reliance wanted to rein press freedom by attempting to repress any negative publicity against Reliance in the media.

Mukesh himself was also criticized for owning a 400,000-square-feet house in Mumbai, a $1 billion-palatial house with 27 floors, and displaying insensitivity towards the huge number of poor individuals living in the nation. Although the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Decade recipient is a private person, Mukesh entered the limelight in 2008 when he bought a Mumbai cricket team in the newly established Indian Premier League.

Reliance in Numbers

One of the world’s crude oil refinery, the one in Jamnagar has 2% of the global processing capacity. It also has 15% of the nation’s exports, 4% of stock market capitalization, and 3% of tax revenues. Reliance is also the largest producer of polyester fiber and yarn worldwide, and considered India’s biggest private corporate investor.