India’s richest man believes if college dropouts like him and Bill Gates can build out multi-billion-dollar multinationals, so can any average Indian.
“My father founded Reliance with a table, a chair, and Rs1,000 five decades ago. It then became a micro-industry, then it became a small industry, and medium, and today you can consider us large,” Reliance Industries (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani said during a fireside chat with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today (Feb. 24). “I have been very fortunate in terms of knowing Steve (Ballmer) and Bill (Gates) from my Stanford days… Why I am saying this is fundamentally to just drive the point that every small business and entrepreneur has the potential in India to become a Dhirubhai Ambani or a Bill Gates and this is the power… that is what differentiates India from the rest of the world.”
Four decades ago, in 1980, Ambani was summoned home from Stanford University—mid-way through his two-year programme—to help his father build RIL. Gates had already begun working on Microsoft by then. Around the same time as the Indian billionaire’s return, Gates convinced Ambani’s classmate, the then 24-year-old Ballmer, to drop out of his MBA course and join his tech startup.
By 2018, RIL was in the coveted $100-billion club. By 2019, Microsoft was a $1 trillion company.
“There must have been something in the air that both of you dropped out,” Nadella joked during the fireside chat. One of Silicon Valley’s most-celebrated Indian-American CEOs, Nadella took the reins from Ballmer in 2014, concluding the latter’s 14-year tenure.
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) contribute about 45% of the manufacturing output of India, over 40% of country’s total exports, and around 8% of its GDP.
“They have done this with zero technical enablement (sic) and adoption,” Ambani stressed. ”Our opportunity between Jio and Microsoft is to really give them full service. To make sure they’re fully enabled with the toolsets and data sets because the mindset already exists to really propel India forward.”