Vol 3, PW 2 (17 Feb 99) People & Policy

INTRO:- So who controls Reliance Industries, a company with the power to influence appointments at the highest levels of government Answer: Dhirubhai Ambani.

A correspondent for Petrowatch offers this personal insight:- "Dhirubhai Ambani comes into the office for just two hours a day. He takes little interest in day to day management of the empire, preferring the more important work of political liaison, receiving politicians and top officials.

His office is a large room, without a table, but with some divans and squat tables. He is shadowed by his favourite betel-leaf vendor (panwallah), whose brief is to prepare 150 folded betel-leaf concoctions a day for the Ambani family.

The leaf is a special variety: expensive, known as magai, and eaten by rich businessmen. The paan served to Dhirubhai has one cardamom and some betel-nut, but no lime or tobacco.

He chews close to 80 of these a day. The betel-leaf vendor, known as 'Chacha' (Uncle), was picked up by Dhirubhai during poorer times and has climbed the ladder with him.

Chacha's other job is to massage Dhirubhai's semi-paralysed hand and feet. He is seen alternatively massaging the boss's hands or rolling betel leaves.

Chacha's monthly bill for paan is between 15,000 to 20,000 rupees. Chacha has built a palatial house in his village in Uttar Pradesh and sends his children to elite boarding schools.

Chacha stays in the Ambani skyscraper in Mumbai. The story goes that if you want to get in with Dhirubhai Ambani, organise a social event and get Chacha to roll paan.

Dhirubhai's paralytic attack has left him unable to walk barefoot. He is particularly inconvenienced when visiting temples in his native Gujarat.

Often, he has to get out of the car and walk barefoot a long way to the sanctorum. Dhirubhai's personal finances are handled by Dinu Sheth, also picked up from poorer days.

When Ambani returned to India from Aden, he was put up in Sheth's house in Bombay. Dhirubhai Ambani is fiercely loyal to those who helped him in the past."

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