Mr. Ambani’s vision is to turn India’s weakness on its head. If manufacturing remains small-scale and fragmented, let it stay that way, he says. “The next big thing is how do you create manufacturing with decentralized employment,” he says. “The Chinese have got very disciplined top-down systems. We have our bottom-up creative systems.”
He mentions products like handmade leather sandals from the Sugar Belt a few hours south of Mumbai, tie-dyed Bandhani saris from Gujarat, artisanal pottery, clothes, jewelry and the like. These wares would be produced in rural areas, sometimes in a villager’s own home. Reliance would forgo manufacturing them and instead teach residents what to make, gather the wares from disparate villages, oversee quality and market and distribute the products.
This is yet another sense in which Mr. Ambani, the most unlikely of Gandhians, is vaguely Gandhian. Mr. Gandhi was famous for his passion for small-scale rural production, symbolized by the spinning wheel. (It is, of course, unlikely that Mr. Gandhi would have endorsed Mr. Ambani’s plan to profit on such goods.)
“How do you really bring about, in a country of a billion people, the individuality of every single individual?” Mr. Ambani asks. “How do you make sure that you create systems that empower everybody and bring them to their true potential? This is what actually Gandhi taught us.”
“The optimistic part to me,” he adds, “is that now these goals look achievable.”
Given such passions, why not enter the political arena?
“I think I can do much, much more in my particular job,” he replies.Mukesh Ambani,Reliance Industries