How Dhirubhai Got His Guts

Dhirubhai was quite a gutsy guy.

His entrepreneurial life is strewn with examples that display that he had very strong guts.

In this article I want to tell what guts he had, and how he acquired those.

And, I will tell it using examples.

[Note: The example below have been borrowed from this book. It you want to know more about the man, please buy the book!]

Examples showing how Gutsy Dhirubhai was:

  1. Around 1962, Dhirubhai had been doing quite well in yarn trading. But the Indo-China war led to crash in yarn prices. His business peers used this situation to spread the rumor that Dhirubhai is having to sell his stock of yarn at a loss. This panicked the moneylenders who had invested in his business. They started demanding their money back. In this situation Dhirubhai showed his guts by putting up a notice on the noticeboard of yarn market declaring that all those who have lent money can take their money back immediately and in the denominations of their choice! This gesture was more of a signal than a real intention. But, it worked pretty well to soothe the panic-run!
  2. Big mill owners pressurized the wholesalers to not accept the fabric from Dhirubhai’s production mills. So, he had the resolve to approach retailers directly, He had the guts to ask his salesmen to leave the stock with the retailers on zero advance payment. Slowly, when the product started to move, the retailers started paying up and accepting more and more!
  3. In 1977, when banks refused him a loan of INR 2 Crores, he went to the equity markets directly for funds. This was the 1st instance of a business approaching the middle-class for funds and for partnership in growth.
  4. In early 1980s, Reliance was attacked by a bear cartel. This cartel started selling as well as shorting lots of Reliance’s shares–in the hope that this will create a market-wide downward pressure on the share price. Their plan was to buy-back the shares when the broader market–out of panic–would have sold their shares at much reduced rates. Dhirubhai came out of this with flying colors. He marshaled some NRI investors to buy the shares the cartel was shorting. And then when the delivery of these shares was demanded, the cartel was at a loss! It did not have the shares–as it had only shorted the shares. Cartel faced huge losses, and Reliance’s share price jumped. It became clear that no one messed with Dhirubhai!
  5. His another show of gut was his remarkable recovery from Paralysis. The doctors declared that they had never come across someone with such high a threshold of pain and determination to get well!

But what made him so gutsy?

My thesis is that he become so gutsy by inculcating taking-up challenges and fighting obstacles as a habit.

Since his childhood and youth, he had slowly developed the habit of taking challenges head-on, and of successfully overcoming them.

It was this habit gave him the courage to take on big professional challenges too.

To demonstrate this below I give 4 examples from his early days:

  1. When he was about 14 years old, in his hostel a sweet dish was not being cooked well by the hostel mess contractor. He first complained about it. And when no one listened, he raided the canteen store during the night and cooked the sweet dish himself. He was caught and reprimanded. It was then that he had the guts to offer to run the canteen himself. He did it for 1 whole year, until he remained in that school!
  2. When he was about 15 years old, the education department of Junagadh came out with a wrong policy of rating schools based on the number of students enrolled in that school. A few student leaders along with Dhirubhai decided to call a strike to oppose this. The authorities played the game of trying to divide the leaders. But, before any of the leaders could get swayed, he instantly came forward and declared firmly that the strike will happen. The strike happened…
  3. When he was about 17 years old, he got a job with a company in Aden. But, when he reached the departure port he realized that all passenger ships were booked already. It was then that he decided to take his maiden voyage abroad on a cargo ship!
  4. When in Aden, one mid-night Dhirubhai was with his friends, in a boat and quite away from the shore, and in a sea known for sharks. One of his friends dared the group to swim to the shore and back. The reward was a bowl of ice-cream. Dhirubhai immediately took on the challenge and plunged in the sea. His friends were awe-struck!

Conclusion.

A habit is a very big force. A few right habits can make us great.

Great people do not become great all-of-sudden. It is a gradual process–of inculcating the right habits.

In case of Dhirubhai, we have seen that he was able to show extra-ordinary grit and guts in his professional life. This was largely because he was able to inculcate the habit of fighting challenges and obstacles right since his childhood. Note also that he did not only build this habit only on business-type challenges, but on any kind of challenge that tested and pushed his personal limits!

Therefore, we need to start forming the right habits early-on. And, we need to start using every opportunity to build these right habits. For example, the habit of deciding quickly need not necessarily wait for a professional opportunity only. You can build this habit over personal instances too!

1