Saturday, July 11, 2009

What does it take to make a badminton star like Saina Nehwal? Ask her father Harvir Singh.

If Saina battles it out on the badminton court against the world’s best players, it has been no less a battle for her father to let her do the same.

Rarely a middle-class family can think of spending half of the monthly income on an eight-year-old child’s training without knowing if the gamble would pay off.

But Harvir Singh, a Scientist with the Directorate of Oilseeds Research Hyderabad, opted to go by the advice of PSS Nani Prasad Rao, the then badminton coach of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP), who saw immense potential in the girl.

“I met Nani Prasad Rao in December, 1998, at Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad. Saina was standing with a badminton racket on the court and he asked her to play. After watching her game, he said,‘She has the potential and if you want to train her, bring her to me as a summer trainee,” Harvir said.

The tough journey had started. Saina had to be taken to the stadium every day early in the morning and the distance from the house was 20 km.

“It was a challenge for both of us because I had to wake up early so that we could reach the stadium by 6 am. The training session used to last for about two hours.

After attending the training session, Saina had to attend school. This way I had to drive my scooter around 50 km daily as Saina, apart from attending rigorous practice sessions, had to concentrate on studies,” her father explained.

The impact of this tough routine began to show in the first week as Saina would often fall asleep on the back seat.

Sensing the danger, Saina’s mother started accompanying them on the two-wheeler. This continued for three months.

Ultimately, the family had to arrange a house near the stadium in 1999. This time the distance was about 7 km from the stadium.

But the travelling ordeal did not end here as Saina was asked to attend evening training sessions as well.

“With an extra training session, the travelling expenditure rose to Rs 150 per day. Added to this was the cost of training. Shuttles, racket, shoes, guttings and what not had to be purchased regularly. I spent around Rs 12,000 every month to keep her going those days,” Harvir said.

But how did the family manage such high-cost training? Saina’s father revealed that he had to sacrifice his savings.

“I started withdrawing money from my provident fund. Sometimes it was Rs 30,000 and other times it was nearly Rs 1 lakh. It happened more than five times when I had to shell out money from my PF savings due to Saina’s various requirements,” said Harvir.

He stated that the tight-rope walk continued till 2002 until Yonex Sunrise sports offered to sponsor Saina’s kit.

“It came as a big relief. Fortunately, she got BPCL support late in 2004. Ultimately, she was spotted by Mittal Sports Trust in December, 2005.

“But I had never disclosed to Saina my financial difficulties fearing that she might get disturbed knowing that her father was left with no savings for the future,” he said.

When asked if they got any help from the sports authorities, the answer said it all.

“Till 2003, she was getting Rs 600 per month from the Sports Authority of India (SAI). It was raised to Rs 2,500 in June, 2003. You can understand how I could have managed,” Harvir said.

Apart from the training cost, hefty telephone bills put extra financial burden on the family when Saina started touring foreign countries for events.

The byte-crazy media played a part too. Wherever she went, be it the Philippines or South Korea, her phone kept ringing.

“A major part of the prize money that Saina got from big competitions like the Philippines Open and World Junior Championship was utilised in paying her mobile bills, which were between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000 in the touring months,” he said.

But was the prize money enough when she began her career? “Saina was given just Rs 300 as prize money after winning the under-10 state level competition, held in Tirupati in 1999. The period between 1999-2004 was very trying for the family as we did not get any sponsor for her,” Harvir said.

It was not only the financial burden but the risk of lagging behind on the educational front which added to the pressure.

Saina had to skip examinations twice. She did not take her first year intermediate exams because of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and later in May, she could not write supplementary exams as she was in the Philippines.

At present she is studying in the second year at Saint Ann’s College, Mehdipatnam Hyderabad. Ironically, the family, despite her big success at the international level, has not been able to celebrate much.

“She has never been to any party, any restaurant or cinema in the past seven years. When the electronic media personnel visited my home in May last year for shooting of a programme, I could not even offer them sweets. Do I need to explain why,” he sed.
1~Guy's do u know Saina's elder Sister Anshu Is a Top Model.

2~Saina Had missed her intermediate exams 2wice and now she is studying in 2nd year in St. Ann's College in Mehdipattnam in hyderabad.

3~Her Father is a Scientist with the Directorate of Oilseeds Research in Hyderabad and her Mother is a house wife.

4~Her Father and Mother both were the state champions in Harayana.

5~Saina Was Born in Hissar(Harayana).

6~Everybody in Hissar call by the name "Steffi Saina".

7~Besides Badminton She Likes To Play Tennis,her favourate tennis player is Maria sharapova n' Roger fedrer.

8~Saina is a "Gadget-Freek".

9~She had a purchased a Mobile advertised by Maria sharapova on telivision.

10~During Phillipines Open and Melbourne Commonwealth Games her phones kept ringing which resulted in the phone Bill of Rs 40,000 (because Pooor Saina didn't Know that high rental is charged in abroad or overseas ha!ha!ha!ha!)

11~Saina's Favourate Bollywood hero is Sahid Kapooor and Hritik Roashan.

12~Saina's Mother Thinks that her smile is very cuite exactly like the Sahid Kapooor's.

13~Her co-traniees(Boys) used to tease her by showing thier Muscles.

14~Saina even beat her male opponents during practices.

15~Saina started playing Badminton at the early age oF six.

16~Saina was 5yrs old when her family shifted to Hyderabad from Hissar.

18~Saina never laughed when she was Small that's why her parents were worried about her.

19~Saina is soo busy in her practice that she haven't visited any Parties,Functions,Hotels or Resturant since 7 yrs.

20~Saina was 2wice Smashed by her opponent 21-0,21-0 in an tournament

Name~Saina Nehwal

Date of Birth~17th march 1990

Place of Birth~Hissar(Haryana)

Schooling~B.V.B Vidyashram

Higher studies~second year at Saint Ann’s College,Mehdipatnam Hyderabad

Occupation~Professional Badminton Player(Right-handed)

Endorsed by~Oil corporation of India

Coach(Tutor)~Mr. Pullela Gopichand

Best rankings~21

Career Highlights Of Saina Nehwal~
*Junior World badminton championship : Finalist
*Commonwealth Games: Bronze medal in the
Mixed Team Event - defeated higher ranked Tracey Hallam in the semi-finals.
*Philippines Open: Won the event, defeating Julia Xian Pei Wong of Malaysia and several higher ranked players including the top seed (She was unseeded and ranked 86 at the beginning of the tourney)
*Saina won Chzechoslovakia Junior open tournament in 2003
*Saina won silver medal in 2nd Youth commonwealth games team held in Bedigo Australia 2004.
*Pre quartefinalist in Junior world cup held in Canada 2004

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On his 50th birthday on Thursday, wife Nita Ambani is gifting him a biopic directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
We are family:

After Mani Ratnam's 'Guru', which is apparently loosely based on Dhirubhai Ambani's life, now there is a biopic on his son - business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. However, there is a huge difference. While 'Guru' is not an authorised project, this film has been commissioned by wife and educationist Nita Ambani as a surprise gift for his 50th birthday.

Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra of 'Rang De Basanti' fame, the movie on his life will be showcased in Jamnagar on Thurday, where the family is celebrating Mukesh's birthday with his factory workers. The 40-minute film, which has music by Rajat Dholakia with two shlokas sung by Pandit Jasraj and songs by Shaan and some folk singers, includes bytes from top Reliance officials talking about their boss.

Sources say the film follows Mukesh's life after the death of his father. It shows how he is successfully managing Dirubhai Ambani's empire and at the same time, making time for his family. "Even when his son calls him up in the middle of a busy working day with a math problem, he is quick to help him out," says a source, adding that the biopic is inspirational, patriotic with subtle drama.

But it's not just Ambani senior's employees who are going to enjoy the day with him. A few of his close friends are flying to Jamnagar today to join in the birthday celebrations. Apparently, they received special invitation cards along with ablue and silver tray filled with chocolates and gold trimmings.

As for what's in store? In true Indian style, a cricket match followed by high tea, a maha-aarti and a tour of the Jamnagar refinery. A refreshing change from the over-the-top celebrations we've being seeing of late!


* 1957: On April 19, Mukesh was born to Dhirubhai and Kokilaben Ambani. He was first child in the extended Ambani family of that generation.
* Early '60s: Lived with his family in the Usha Kiran skyscraper at Altamount Road. They later moved into Sea Wind at Cuffe Parade, an exclusive tower that's now the Ambani residence.
* 1984: Opted for an arranged marriage with Nita who had caught the eye of Kokilaben at a dance recital. Mukesh and Nita now have 3 children: Akash, Isha and Anant.
* 1981: Joined Reliance. Was the brain behind Reliance's backward integration from textiles into polyester fibres and further into petrochemicals.
* 2002: Dhirubhai Ambani passes away. The Reliance empire is carved into tow soon after between Mukesh and his younger brother Anil.
* 2004: Mukesh ranked 13th in Asia's Power 25 list of 'The Most Powerful People in Business' published by Fortune magazine
* 2006: Co-chaired the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2006 in Davos, Switzerland.
* 2007: Currently chairman, CMD, and largest shareholder of RIL. His wealth as on March 2007, is estimated at $ 20 billion, making him the 14 th richest man in the world.

Corporate honchos extend their best wishes...

* "My best wishes for him turning 50, but I think he doesn't look 50 at all! I've seen Mukesh on top of things always. He does his homework well, is fully aware of the facts and comes across as someone who is ahead of his time." Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Essel Group
* "My first wish for him is that he should enjoy excellent health because the nation needs him to be around for a very, very long time. Then I wish for him peace of mind and lots of time with his family." Akhil Gupta, CEO, Blackstone India (Batchmate from Stanford)
* "I really respect and admire. He has the ability to not just dream big but to turn every dream of his into a reality. Most importantly, he is always very clear about what he wants; one has a lot to learn from him. Ijust want to wish him all the best." Swati Piramal, Director, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd
* "I wish him all the best and would like to thank him for inspiring all the youthful entrepreneurs of our country. He showed us that nothing is impossible and sky is the limit!, Ashish Raheja,md, K Raheja Universal


Isha Ambani is the 16-year-old daughter of Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani, the world’s fifth richest man. Her dad, who heads India’s largest private sector enterprise — and a Fortune 500 company — has two other children, Isha’s twin brother Akash and Anant.

Isha holds a stake worth about $80 million in Reliance Industries, the petrochemicals giant her father straddles. And pretty much like dad — who holds a first-class bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and had enrolled at Stanford University for an MBA but didn’t quite finish it — Isha is seen as a bright young thing at the eponymous, family-owned Dhirubhai Ambani International School in India’s financial capital of Mumbai.
Isha’s school — one of India’s most eminent — is named after her late grandfather and patriarch of the conglomerate, Dhirubhai Ambani. Currently, it is headed by Isha’s mom, Nita Ambani. Built in 2003, it is one of 37 in India that offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate Program with its students gaining admission into such blue-chip institutes as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, London School of Economics, Oxford and Cambridge.

Isha is in grade XI of her school’s International Baccalaureate programme and is also the school head girl while her twin, Akash, is a member of the freshly-minted students’ council. A talented and responsible girl, Isha, according to sources, is an all-rounder and was a “natural choice” for the head-girl’s post.

Apart from academics, where the lass has been the recipient of a bagful of awards, she has a myriad other interests like sports, arts, business/economy and international issues. A former student body council president, she also plays on her school’s championship soccer team and is a trained pianist.

The teenager is also actively involved in a slew of pioneering initiatives at her school. She was the organiser and facilitator of “Paigaam”, an Indo-Pakistan peace conference organised by her school to forge a harmonious relationship with people from across the border through an exchange of ideas.

Isha’s corporate involvement and small family puts her in a commanding position to inherit a sizeable chunk of her father’s enviable fortune.

Monday, February 23, 2009

full profile...mukesh ambani

The House

Altamount Road in Mumbai is a shady lane that meanders up a steep hill, elevating its residents above the din and chaos of the city. Its addresses are those of India’s corporate elite: The official residence of Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group, is here, and Naresh Goyal, the founder of Jet Airways, lives in the neighborhood. But even here, the new house belonging to Mukesh Ambani stands out.

Right now, it’s a pile of concrete and steel, but once construction is complete, the building, estimated in the Indian press to cost $1 billion, will be the primary home of India’s richest resident—its first rupee trillionaire. Reportedly inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the house will be among the tallest structures in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), at the equivalent of 60 stories—although there will be only 27 livable floors inside, each one with an outrageously high ceiling. Leaked plans for Antilia, as the future glass tower is named, reveal that Ambani and his family will keep their cars—there are spots for 168 of them—on six parking floors and have them repaired in an in-house garage. They’ll entertain as many as 50 friends at a time in a plush movie theater ideally suited to showing Hindi films—an Ambani passion. Above that, a health club and a sparkling pool beckon; there the family can swim laps, secure in the knowledge that a “refuge” area occupies a nearby floor, in case a sudden evacuation of the building is warranted. The guest apartments and four floors of living quarters for Ambani, his wife, their three children—and his mother—are near the top, with views of the Arabian Sea. The roof has three helipads, and several levels throughout the building are dedicated to gardens and terraces. A domestic staff of 600 will run the place, which was designed by Chicago architecture firm Perkins & Will.

Mumbai’s jigsawed skyline is one of the last parts of India that Ambani, 50, has left to conquer. As chairman of Reliance Industries—India’s version of General Electric—he’s emerged as the country’s premier capitalist, directing sprawling business operations that include petrochemicals, oil refining, textiles, retail, and biotechnology. Ambani’s father built Reliance up from a handful of textile mills into an industrial conglomerate that represents about 3 percent of India’s $4.1 trillion economy, with annual revenue of more than $27 billion, almost as much as the better-known Tata Group. While the Ambani family directly controls 46 percent of Reliance, its stock is held by one in four Indian investors, according to the company. “I’d go so far as to say that he’s pretty much running India,” Shobhaa Dé, a bestselling novelist and cultural observer, says of Ambani. “Policy decisions, the direction India is taking—his ambition is to be the most powerful man in the region.”

Everything about Ambani is over-the-top: He’s moving into the world’s most expensive house; he’s constructing the world’s largest oil-refining complex; he’s trying to remake India’s scattershot retail industry. Yet despite all of his almost absurdly big plans, Ambani is anything but a publicity-seeking social climber. In fact, he’s a semi-recluse: awkward, shy, a traditional Hindu who practices strict vegetarianism and abstains from drinking alcohol. With his mix of hubris, business savvy, and personal eccentricity, he may be a modern-day Howard Hughes.

His wealth is in the same league as that of Indian steel baron Lakshmi Mittal, though he has little of Mittal’s flash and swagger. Nevertheless, Ambani is a source of endless fascination to his fellow Indians, his every move tracked by the local tabloids. Within a new culture celebrating money and success—especially in Mumbai, where ostentatious shows of wealth are de rigueur—he’s a hero, a Bollywood-worthy representative of the country’s prosperity and self-confidence. But he’s also one of India’s most polarizing figures, a businessman famous for bulldozing anyone who resists his intentions to expand his old-line industrial companies and whose extreme riches conflict with the country’s Gandhian leanings. His success with pushing his epic projects through in a place that’s infamous for its crippling bureaucracy prompts questions among his countrymen about his close ties to government officials. Controversy over his many plans—from the new house to his displacement of farmers to establish free-trade zones—highlights the costs of endless expansion and whether Ambani’s approach can be reconciled with the more traditional, understated “Indian” way.

Securing face time with India’s richest resident requires patience, as Ambani’s world is padded with layers of minions to shield him from public scrutiny. Scheduled appointments mysteriously never take place, and phone calls are rarely returned when expected; Ambani is big enough to make people wait.

Indeed, it’s a marvel that Ambani can accomplish anything at all, given the chaos swirling around him. He is known to stay up until late into the night, tapping out emails and holding meetings—and watching Bollywood movies. He frequently rolls into his headquarters well after noon, and there is rarely any fixed daily schedule; the staff is perpetually scrambling on its own unpredictable Ambani time.

On a recent evening in the middle of monsoon season, Ambani paced around his South Mumbai offices, receiving confidants, supplicants, and guests. He is known for an obsession with personal safety, and the suite of offices that forms his company’s nerve center is said to be layered with security hardware that is state-of-the-art. He rarely goes outside for fear of being mobbed.

With a stocky build and the same shiny, unnaturally jet-black hair favored by Indian movie stars and politicians of a certain age, Ambani seems restless and agitated, bobbing his head from side to side when he talks, his gaze flitting around the room. “I speak by my actions,” he declares. He sits in a white armchair, not far from the life-size painting in the entryway of Mohandas Gandhi—against whom he strikes a marked philosophical contrast.

Despite Ambani’s casual attitude toward time commitments, he is exacting when it comes to what he’ll talk about: He doesn’t like to be pinned down with inquiries about his business or the effects of his actions on his developing country. The sight of a tape recorder will send him into a fit. Rather, he speaks elliptically about lofty big-picture issues, such as India’s greatness and its place in the world. “We are in the midst of many expansions. These are in different industries, with different interests. We are crossing many bridges,” he says vaguely. Alluding to the controversy surrounding him, he says, “Whenever we cross one bridge, there is lots of friction.”

India is often described as a land of extremes, and the characterization now seems particularly apt. The country is experiencing an extraordinary period of economic expansion—a turbocharged state of change that can be baffling to an outsider and that makes its claim to superpower status seem slightly ahead of itself. While it’s true that the economy grew 9.4 percent last year, empowering a rising middle class, much of that wealth is concentrated in small pockets of the country. Outside of those bubbles, poverty and simmering class tension are as pronounced as ever. “There is an astonishing amount of wealth creation going on in India, but it’s disproportionately accruing to a few, which is creating a crisis in the system,” says Ravi Venkatesan, the chairman of Microsoft India. “If 780 million people don’t share in this wealth-creation process, in a democracy, can this continue? The answer is no.”

Ambani galvanizes both sides of the wealth divide. In a sign of how difficult it is to reconcile two competing forces—enjoying incredible, almost preposterous material success while wondering how Indian it is to do so, especially in a city where more than 6 million people live in slums—Ambani seems to be struggling. “A lot of us think the world is flat,” he said in Washington during a June awards ceremony sponsored by the U.S.-India Business Council. But Ambani disagrees. “I think the world is spiky . . . because 15 to 20 percent of people in the developing world live in plenty, while 80 percent live in scarcity.” He went on, “We have people who have to survive on $2 a day.... We cannot have islands of prosperity surrounded by oceans of poverty.”

Despite Ambani’s professed concern about inequality, his actions attract attention for their extravagance. Published details about his new house were quickly followed by reports that the land he was building on had been acquired under unusual circumstances from a Muslim charitable trust that had operated an orphanage on the site. City bureaucrats have since been sniping over whether the sale should be allowed to stand. Ambani isn’t known for charitable giving in the way his fellow countryman Tata is, which makes his preoccupation with economic disparity a curiosity. Ambani says that he helps his country by growing his company, offering cheap cell phones, and enabling farmers to sell groceries to the masses.

The Countryside

Mumbai is a tangle of puttering black-and-yellow taxicabs, listing buildings, gnarled train tracks, endless traffic and smog. More people than one could ever imagine occupy the space, and the corrugated metal and blue plastic tarps that are so distinctive of developing-world slum architecture stretch for miles. But drive an hour and a half south of the city and the sky opens up over green hills, farmland, banyan and teak trees, and glossy black bullocks pulling carts. It is here that the full extent of Ambani’s empire-building dream is most apparent, as he angles to take over a tract of land stretching along the coast to establish the country’s largest special economic zone. It’s also where the contrasting fates of India’s towering industrialists and everyone else are thrown into stark relief.

The economic transformation of India is one of the most remarkable stories of the past 20 years, although the reality is more complex than its breathless media coverage would suggest. Two-thirds of India’s citizens live in rural areas, subsisting primarily on agriculture, and their lot has hardly improved during the recent boom. Tens of thousands of farmers have been driven by debt and poverty to commit suicide. According to one government report, more than 17,000 killed themselves in 2003 alone. Thirty-five percent of India’s citizens live on a dollar a day, only 61 percent of the population can read, and at least 100 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. In certain areas, the country is almost regressing: Some states now have large gender disparities—as few as 800 females to 1,000 males—due to the practice of gender-selective abortions, and though discrimination based on caste has been outlawed, in many respects it still maintains a suffocating hold on people’s lives. In spite of all that, corruption may be the biggest problem India faces. Just about everybody is thought to be on the take; partly as a result, the business environment has acquired a lawless feel, with everything and nothing happening at once.

One of the government’s biggest ideas for promoting investment is special economic zones, areas where firms can operate tax-free under liberal labor and import-export laws. Introduced in 2000, S.E.Z.’s—made up of large swaths of land sold to manufacturing firms—are now being established around the country. The concept was borrowed from China, where it gave rise to that country’s manufacturing hub, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. But its implementation has proved to be significantly messier in a democratic country with a tradition of civil disobedience and very little unoccupied land. Many of the projects have met resistance from villagers who don’t want to give up their homes. Plans for S.E.Z.’s in West Bengal, Orissa, and other states have resulted in violent clashes.

Hundreds of applications have been filed for S.E.Z. sites all over the country, many of them by domestic conglomerates like Ambani’s. Initially, the government took a central role in buying out farmers and selling their land to the corporations; but populist outrage quickly motivated politicians to declare that they were getting out of the land-transfer business. Now companies must negotiate directly with people living in the areas they’re interested in colonizing, while their applications for special tax-exempt status wend their way through the bureaucratic machine. Inhabitants of these areas complain that even if they don’t want to sell, they’re forced to, as land all around them is swallowed up and earmarked for chemical plants and new housing. Then there are concerns about pollution. (Any visitor to China’s economic belt will understand that they’re well-founded.)

Ambani has several ambitious S.E.Z.-creation plans in the works; one involves a parcel of land encompassing 45 villages (home to approximately 250,000 people, by one estimate) just south of Mumbai. Its proximity to the city suggests that it will only increase in value over time as Mumbai’s population swells. Its proposed size (24,000 acres) is double the maximum permitted by the government, and the project is stalled: Ambani and the bureaucrats seem to be locked in a stalemate over whether the government will grant him an exemption. A recent visit to the site revealed miles of bucolic farms and paddies, where women in colorful saris dotted the landscape, planting rice. There was little hint of the battle playing out over the region’s future.

While opposition to the zones has been mild in some parts of the country, the Ambani project has been met with anger, protests, and hunger strikes, including one by a group of female farmers in July. They say that people purporting to be Ambani representatives have conducted coercive land purchases, and they have asked the government to intervene on their behalf.

Seated in an office in one of the affected towns, Dutta Patil, a former opposition leader in the Maharashtra state government who is fighting the S.E.Z.’s on behalf of the farmers, whips out a map and gestures over a broad area. “All these are thickly populated by agrarian people,” he says, raising his voice. “All this community will be wiped out. Where are we to go? The minute this land is taken by Ambani, Ambani is going to build a castle on the land. Ambani will not allow me to get in this land without having a visa.”

Ambani will not discuss the points raised by his detractors. Reliance officials insist that they offer jobs or job training to people displaced by their development plans. Inside these S.E.Z.’s, Ambani says, “we can create infrastructure to attract the world’s best companies.”

The Family

The rags-to-riches story of the Ambani family is something Reliance loves to promote. Mukesh’s father, Dhirubhai, was born into a poor family in the state of Gujarat, rising from a scrappy textile trader into a mogul who initiated one of the country’s highest-profile initial public offerings, in 1977. A Bollywood movie, Guru, is loosely based on Dhirubhai’s life; its main character, Gurubhai, is depicted as an outsider, a masterful businessman and ruthless mercenary who’s skilled at targeting his enemies and manipulating politicians.

Australian journalist Hamish McDonald profiled the Ambani family in his book The Polyester Prince. According to McDonald, Ambani’s father began as an importer of polyester yarn at a time when cotton was still politically symbolic in India. His strategy was to move back along the supply chain and make the components that went into the production of synthetic textiles, building polyester mills and expanding into chemical manufacturing and petrochemicals. (The book has spawned numerous conspiracy theories because it was never published or sold in India, due to fear of legal action by the Ambani family, though it was published in Australia. Smuggled photocopies are passed around among business junkies in Mumbai like contraband cigars.)

Young Ambani learned the family business at his father’s side. He was shipped off to the United States to attend Stanford business school and upon graduation set up one of Reliance’s polyester factories. He also supervised one of the most ambitious construction projects India had ever seen—the $6 billion creation of the Reliance oil refinery, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, in 1999.

In many ways, Reliance exemplifies the unrestrained atmosphere in India right now: the mad rush among the country’s largest companies to enter new businesses, the transformation of its retail industry as national chain stores are introduced, a new focus on India’s energy security, and firms’ ambitions to expand beyond the country’s borders. Of all this, Ambani’s mission to double the Jamnagar refinery’s capacity, embarked on in 2005, could well define his legacy.

Once the expansion is complete, the refinery complex will be the largest in the world, for the first time exporting gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products to America and Europe. More than 50 percent of the crude oil consumed in North America is imported, but the United States hasn’t built a new refinery since 1976, largely because no one wants to live near one. In shifts that stretch around the clock, 80,000 workers toil to meet Ambani’s aggressive goal to complete it by March 2008. Chevron, which is partnering with Reliance on the project, has invested $300 million for a 5 percent equity stake in Reliance Petroleum, with an option to increase its share to 29 percent by 2009.

With labor costs running at about 200 rupees ($5) a day per construction worker, the expanded refinery will cost a fraction of what it would have been to build in North America. During the June ceremony in Washington, Chevron’s executive vice president for global downstream, Mike Wirth, said that Reliance’s refinery would be “completed in less time than it would take to permit and construct a minor modification to one of our U.S. facilities.”

The refinery itself is spectacular—and a reminder of why such projects have been outsourced to countries where air quality is less of a political concern. A heavy, acrid smell hangs over the place, and a coat of haze softens the horizon—although Reliance officials like to point to all the trees they’ve planted nearby. The 7,500-acre refinery grounds are adjoined by a 1,600-acre greenbelt, where, the officials say, wild boars, antelopes, and peacocks scamper. Instead of being dumped into the ocean, the refinery’s wastewater—a combination of water, cadmium, magnesium, and other heavy metals—is treated and then used to irrigate 1.8 million hardwood trees; a mango plantation with 110 varieties destined for export sits nearby. A jetty extends 3.4 miles into the Arabian Sea for tankers to load up on gasoline.

The petroleum unit is the largest subsidiary in the ungainly conglomerate that is Reliance. As chairman, Ambani serves as the group’s figurehead, chief political lobbyist, and idea man, while trusted deputies manage the day-to-day operations of the individual business units. Since he took over for his father, his overarching goals have been relentless growth and expansion into new areas: Last year, Reliance announced plans to open Wal-Mart-style mega-retail outlets across the country, and its new life-sciences unit is investing in biofuels as well as biomedical and plant research.

As if managing all this didn’t keep him busy enough, Ambani also has to contend with an ongoing family psychodrama that threatens to flare up at any moment and disrupt his business. A feud has been simmering between Mukesh Ambani and his younger brother, Anil, since their father died in 2002 without a will and left them to scrap over the family empire.

Reliance Group, the company their father founded, was ultimately divided in two, with one part going to each son in the same way that children might be handed separate toys in a kindergarten. As the result of a truce reportedly brokered by Kokilaben, their mother, Mukesh got the industrial businesses and Anil the communications and power-generation properties (now renamed Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group)—although that has hardly quelled the sibling rivalry. One of the most recent skirmishes to make headlines—over whether Mukesh had to honor the fixed prices he’d agreed to charge his brother’s company for natural gas extracted from a field on India’s east coast—had significant economic implications. Both brothers took to holding dueling press conferences and made frequent trips to New Delhi to prostrate themselves before government officials who were mediating the conflict.

Anil is the more flamboyant of the two, prettier and more of a partyer, a marathon runner who’s married to a glamorous former Bollywood actress. The agreement that outlined the division of the company was said to be only three pages long, leaving room for petty disputes; the boys’ mother remains a critical buffer between the two. Some members of the business community remember the days when the melodrama caused Reliance’s share price to go haywire and shudder. “The theory is that if the mother dies,” says an executive based in Mumbai, “then the gloves will come off.”

It’s a muggy summer day in Washington, and Ambani stands before a packed ballroom. “Today, even at the beginning of the 21st century, 15 percent of the world’s population has 85 percent of the world’s income. This is a highly skewed world,” Ambani says, wheezing slightly and clutching the podium. His teeth are gleaming white, and he is out of his usual poly-blend shirt, wearing a suit and sporting slicked-back hair—perhaps in preparation for his upcoming meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is the luncheon’s keynote speaker.

The night before, he’d been honored at a gala banquet following a concert by the Indian classical musician Amjad Ali Khan—although the second the pecan-crusted lamb was brought out, there was a kerfuffle in the dining room. Several Reliance executives jumped out of their chairs and scurried into the hallway to place calls to limousine drivers and restaurants before Ambani, his wife, and his daughter were spirited away for a proper vegetarian Indian meal.

Ambani’s wife, Nita, who looks after Reliance’s corporate-responsibility program, explains that she and her husband make a special effort to keep their children grounded, citing the family’s trip to Washington. “Our daughter flew with us in the private plane, while our sons stayed behind in New York,” she says. After the other family members had left, the boys got lonely and wanted to join them. “We both decided not to send the plane back to get them. They took the train! We’re striving very hard to make them live a normal life.”

In addition to helping direct the Reliance foundation and working with various charities, Nita started one of the most elite private schools in Mumbai, the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, where hundreds of well-groomed children can be seen traipsing through an airy, modern complex an hour from the center of the city. A window of the school looks out on a classic Mumbai scene: a shantytown spread along the banks of the Mithi River.

“I think we are making steps, but today it’s important that we talk about humanity at large. I don’t think it’s ‘India this and that,’ ” Nita says when asked whether India is moving in the right direction in terms of evening the disparity between rich and poor. “Look at Africa. There are huge belts of people who live on less than $1 a day. We have to address this issue, without getting into ‘country.’ Every one of us is responsible for all of humanity.”

Says Tom Simons, a vice president of Chevron, “There were the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts, huge companies that were family owned. That’s where India is now. It is a bit of a Wild West thing here, but they’ll get through it. I wish they’d build some roads, though.”

After finishing his talk about the “young and confident India that is engaging with the world,” Ambani—Mr. India himself—pauses to enjoy the applause before coming down off the stage. Pressing business awaits him at home: the annual shareholders meeting for Reliance Petroleum, the battles with his brother, the fight over his new house. As he steps into the crowd, his entourage engulfs him, Nita, and his kids and hustles them out into the sweltering Washington air, where they can be seen waiting for a town car to take them away.