Entrepreneurs, take heed! Here are Mukesh Ambani’s 5 career lessons

Mukesh Ambani

India’s richest man doesn’t share his trade secrets every day, but when he does, everyone pays attention.

At the Nasscom Foundation’s annual leadership summit in Mumbai, Reliance Group chairman Mukesh Ambani was asked about his advice to budding entrepreneurs. Ambani said he’d rather share his learnings than give them advice. After all, entrepreneurs are supposed to shatter the mold and break new ground.

Here’s what he had to say:

1. Ambani’s first learning came from his father and founder of the Reliance Group, Dhirubhai Ambani. A young Ambani had come back from Stanford University and asked his father, “What is going to be my job? What do I do?” The response was that if he was seeking a job, roles and responsibilities, then he’d be a manager. “If you are an entrepreneur, then you will figure out what you want to do,” Dhirubhai said. “So I’m not going to tell you anything. Figure out what you want to do,” Ambani recounted at the conference.

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2. The second thing Ambani has learned over the years is that as an entrepreneur, it is important to find a problem that one wants to solve, that one is passionate about. This is also something that he learned from his teacher at UDCT. “I was blessed to have him. He would always say, `I’m not going to give you a list of problems that you can work on. You find the problems. I will grade you on the quality of the problems that you find as well as the quality of the solution you actually give’.”

The same rule applies to entrepreneurs according to Ambani. “It’s not [just about] solving the problems. It’s first finding the problems. And once you find it, solve it,” Ambani said.

Social consciousness, according to Ambani, should be central to an entrepreneur’s journey and life. “You have to solve a problem that will actually help society. And that has to be the main objective of your business,” he said, adding that financial returns must be secondary. “If you focus only on returns, chances are that you won’t really become great,” he said.

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3. The next piece of learning is something that can be perhaps appreciated after success has been tasted, but, nevertheless, must be kept in mind. “Failures are normal. Even in my own case, I have failed several times before succeeding. They [failures] are just a step before you succeed. Never get disheartened by failure. Learn from them but never give up,” Ambani said.

4. There must also be a few non-negotiables for every entrepreneur. For Ambani, those include: treating investors’ money even more carefully than one’s own and the importance of an A-team. “You can’t do anything without the right team. And it is very important to align the team passionately with your own passion,” he said.

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5. And finally the importance of being positive.

“The entrepreneur is an optimist. There are a lot of cynics and people who think negatively.

But an entrepreneur spreads positive energy,” he said. Glass half full, never half empty.

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