15 Business Lessons from Mukesh Ambani

15 January 2021

Business in India Is a Chaos and Mukesh Ambani a Chaotic Business Tycoon. Nobody Can Teach Us Better About Hustling.

Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani started India’s most valuable company by market value with his father in 1980. Reliance Industries is a Fortune Global 500 company that has won Ambani the title of the second richest person in Asia, and 14th richest in the world with a net worth of US$74 billion in January 2021.

It was only recently he was pipped from the title as Asia’s richest person, but this business mogul probably doesn’t care, he has other priorities right now. His most notable recent title is that of grandfather as he welcomed his first grandchild into the world with great pride in December 2020.

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One thing you will quickly find out about Ambani is that he doesn’t have time for idle chatter, so let’s get going on with the 15 business lessons we can learn from him.


Talk Less, Do More

Mukesh Ambani didn’t create the world’s largest petroleum refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat by talking a big game. He put down his head and did the hard work. And this is only one of his many businesses successes we will discuss today. This quote by Israelmore Ayivor: “Talk less, do more,” perfectly sums up Ambani’s approach to success.

Not only does he stay on the DL in social circles, he also avoids any scandal in the media. And while he is one of India’s most talked about personalities, he doesn’t promote or prompt the coverage he receives. Instead, he remains focussed on the task at hand, and stays out of the politicking that is popular amongst modern businesspeople.


Money Is the Byproduct of Your Success

We have heard this one before from so many of the successful, Musk, Ma and others all express that chasing money alone won’t guarantee success. Well, Mukesh Ambani’s father: Dhirubhai Ambani believed the same and when they built up Reliance, Mukesh held on his fathers every word as he took over the company he had built with his father.

The advice paid off, because today without his vision for building a quality driven company it wouldn’t employ 25,000 people and share its success with 3 million stakeholders.


Treat Investor’s Money More Carefully Than Your Own

Many businesses treat investors’ money like they won the lottery and there is no repercussion for blowing it. Ambani on the other hand believes in treating investors’ money even more carefully than the billions he has amassed.

It’s hard to know what came first, his precious handling of investors’ money or his runaway success. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, but certainly one that seems to go hand in hand with huge investor confidence.


Trust Everyone, but Don’t Depend on Them

Ambani was quoted saying that he did not want “people carrying their wisdom in notebooks as if it some kind of secretive operations”.  He openly trusts people. Sure, like any successful person, he has a team of a few close trusted people, but he emphasizes the importance of being involved in the business so that you don’t have to blindly rely on others for your own business success.

So instead, he continues self-learning, remains in the know and stays well prepared so that he can tackle challenges himself as they arise.


Nurture Your Staff, Not the Profit

Other than his approach to investor money, the other non-negotiable business principal for Ambani is to have the right team on the job.  According to him: “You can’t do anything without the right team. And it is very important to align the team passionately to your own passion.”

More on the passions part later, but let’s talk about the bit about the right team. After you have found the team, it’s critical that you create an environment that allows their talents and skills to be nurtured and to bring out the best in them. Ambani believes that the strength of organisations like Microsoft is the leadership style that shows empathy, builds trust and relationships, and a culture that sees mistakes as learning opportunities. And all this is only possible if you put people over products or profits.


Take Risks, but Ensure They’re Calculated

In 2015 Ambani made a move which many thought was risky, and the market responded with 22 basis points nose dive on Reliance contracts that protect the company’s debt. The down turn was a reaction for Ambani’s decision to roll out 4G. Yup, that’s right. The mobile phone network, 4G. Looking back, it seems such a sure fire investment, but from the safety of 3G in 2015, 4G seemed risky. Side note: if only they knew the scandal that 5G would bring in 2020!

Anyway, the lesson we can learn is that risks should be calculated. Risks don’t have to always mean setting off into the unknown with no road map. Given the uptake of mobile phones as computing devices, Ambani could do the sums and know that getting in on 4G early would be a win.


Align Your Passion and Purpose in Life With a Goal

For this lesson we didn’t feel like we could sum it up better than Mukesh Ambani said  it himself, so here are some inspirational words from a speech he made in 2013 when he accepted the honour of being named: NDTV’s 25 Greatest Global Living Legends.

“To the youth, dream big. Align your passion and purpose in life with a goal. If you focus on the goal, you will overcome all obstacles. If you focus on obstacles, you will never reach your goal.

“Even more important is to pursue excellence – aim at being the best. Not just the best in India, but the best in the world. Pursue excellence and success will chase you.”

Told you he put it well.

Don’t know where to start? Let’s brew some fresh ideas. Check out these 15 Powerful Goals to Set for 2021


Loyalty – From the Entrepreneur and the Customer – Are Key

Loyalty is not a one way street, it takes not just loyalty from the customer, but the entrepreneur must be loyal to fulfil customer’s needs and not take them for granted. Throughout the Ambani’s long history of business they have proven an unwavering loyalty to their customer. This family value has been one of the biggest pre-cursors to Mukesh Ambani’s professional success.


See Everyone as a Potential Customer.

Mukesh Ambani doesn’t let customers slip between his fingers. According to his approach:  “Today I see a billion people as a billion potential consumers, an opportunity to generate value for them and to make a return for myself”

It’s a pretty ambitious target market, but if you consider the population of India is 1.4billion, then you realise the volumes that business people in this part of the world have to sell to. As a segue, it is a good lesson here to also take away the huge potential the “non west” has as a place for generating business sales. If you live in the West, we tend to want to penetrate just those markets, when there are many other places to do business to far larger populations.


Find a Problem, Solve a Problem

What Aluxers already know is that being a successful entrepreneur isn’t about finding a product to sell at a profit, but in finding the solution to a problem that you have identified that a large market experience. Ambani is a problem solver extraordinaire. He credits this outlook to his teacher at the UDCT. “I was blessed to have him. He would always say, “I’m not going to give you a list of problems that you can work on. You find the problems. I will grade you on the quality of the problems that you find as well as the quality of the solution you actually give.”

You can’t just be a problem solver; you need to be a problem spotter. Ambani believes that social consciousness should be central to an entrepreneur’s motivation “You have to solve a problem that will actually help society. And that must be the main objective of your business, financial returns must be secondary.”


Always Be on the Lookout for New Opportunities, Gaps, and Innovations.

Mukesh Ambani has proven time and again that not only is he a master problem solver, but he has an eye on the future and when he sees a gap he goes for it. He doesn’t rest on existing technology but goes after the next big trend long before others have caught up.

In September 2016 he changed the game entirely when he launched Reliance Jio. This telecoms service brought India a new voice and data operator with rates as low as one tenth that of other networks, and without surge or blackout pricing on special holidays that had exploited the market before. Also, there would be no more separate charges, just one, charging customers for one service.

In what was announced as one of the largest launch offers worldwide, Jio offered data, voice and video “to everyone absolutely free” starting September 5 till December 31, 2016.

In just 3 years since its launch in January 2020, Reliance Jio was listed as the largest telecoms operator in India with over 32% of the market share. Now that is what we call a successful business strategy born from solving a problem.


Failure Is Normal, but Learn From It Instead of Giving Up

Despite runaway successes like Jio, Ambani has also suffered his fair share of failures. But Ambani only sees it as failure if you don’t learn from it. As he puts it: “Failures are normal. Even in my own case, I have failed several times before succeeding. They [failures] are just a step before you succeed. Never get disheartened by failure. Learn from them but never give up.”

And that is what separates Ambani from the others. His strength to keep persevering instead of giving up. He is realistic that the struggle is real though: “All of us, in a sense, struggle continuously all the time, because we never get what we want. The important thing which I’ve really learned is how do you not give up, because you never succeed in the first attempt.”


Let Your Work Speak for the Critics

Ambani doesn’t seem to pay a lot of mind to what people say about him. He also doesn’t try to defend himself against his critics. Instead he encourages us through his actions to rather keep your head down and let your work speak for itself. When you are an undeniable success then no one will be able to criticise. According to Ambani’s methods: “Critics are present in what we do, and it becomes a responsibility to handle them with maturity. Don’t waste your time in replying to them with your words but do something that shuts their mouth completely.”  In a world of armchair critics, it’s a great lesson for any future billionaire to take in, don’t you think Aluxers?


There Is No Substitute for Hard Work

Most of the most successful entrepreneurs say this, but it is probably the least popular and less glamorous advice that many don’t want to hear. Nothing beats old fashioned hard work if you want to make it big.

What we get out is what we put into our business ventures, so you have to work at it to make it a success. Something like Reliance Jio seemed to come from nowhere and launch almost overnight. The truth is that there were months and years of knowledge, perfect timing and experience that went into a successful launch. On top of that there were all of the behind-the-scenes infrastructure, contracts and connections that brought it all into reality.

Mukesk Ambani probably put it best in this summary “It is important to remember, there are no overnight successes. You will need to be dedicated, single-minded, and there is no substitute for hard work.”


Know Your Price

Success doesn’t mean that you just keep going when the money is good. You need to have a strong sense of what you stand for, and the limits of what you are able and willing to risk or sacrifice. Ambani famously said: “It is important to achieve our goals, but not at any cost.”

The outworking of this can be seen in his high value of Relationships and truth which he describes as the bedrock of life, something he is not willing to compromise at any price and I guess what makes him so reliable!


What is the greatest piece of business advice you have received?