Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani's story is straight out of the Bollywood movies of his hometown. He started out in life crammed with six people into a two-bedroom tenement in the most congested part of central Mumbai. When he grew up, he constructed a billion-dollar, 27-story castle towering over Mumbai's established elites. Therein, his family of five has 400,000 sq. ft. (37,000 sq m) to stretch out, including a room where, as they gaze out over the slums below and the Arabian Sea in the distance, snow can be commanded to fall from the ceiling. And oh, along the way, Ambani, 54, also took the firm his father founded — Reliance Industries — and turned it into India's largest private-sector company, a $45 billion petrochemicals giant. It's a new kind of Indian company, built through adroit manipulation of governments and the stock market but also enriching millions of shareholders. "We have taken money from ordinary Indians, and we are their trustees," he says. As long as the money keeps coming, they may forgive his excesses.

Mehta is the author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found