The late Dhirubhai Ambani and construction magnate Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry are among industrialists chosen this year for the Padma awards.

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, better known as Dhirubhai, has been chosen for the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian award, in the trade and industry category. Media baron Ramoji Rao and economist Avinash Dixit have also received the Padma Vibhushan.

Pallonji Mistry, the fifth richest Indian, as well as R.C. Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, and Indu Jain, chairman of Bennett Coleman Pvt. Ltd (which owns The Times of India), have been conferred the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honour.

Ajaypal Singh Banga, chief executive officer and president of Mastercard Inc., is among the industry leaders chosen for the Padma Shri award. Pharma magnate and founder of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd Dilip Shanghvi, the second richest Indian after Ambani’s son Mukesh, and Saurabh Srivastava, chairman of India operations at CA Technologies Inc., were also awarded the Padma Shri, as was Keki Hormusji Gharda, chairman and managing director of Gharda Chemicals.

The son of a school teacher in a remote village in Gujarat, Ambani lived in a one-room chawl in Mumbai with his wife and children and went on to found the textile-to-oil-telecom Reliance Group.

After working in Aden, Yemen, as a petrol pump attendant and then as a clerk in an oil firm, he returned to India in 1958 at the age of 26 to set up Reliance Trading Corp. (which imported polyester and exported spices), later renamed Reliance Textiles Corp. before finally being named Reliance Industries.

Eight years later, Ambani set up his first textile mill, turning out polyester cloth under the Vimal brand name at Naroda near Ahmedabad. He listed Reliance on the Bombay and Ahmedabad stock exchanges in January 1978 and set up a polyester plant in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, he turned aggressively towards petrochemicals, oil refining, telecommunications and financial services. In 1976-77, Reliance had an annual turnover of 70 crore. By the time he passed away on 6 July 2002 at the age of 70, Ambani had converted his fledgling enterprise into a 75,000 crore colossus—an achievement that earned Reliance a place in the global Fortune 500 list, the first ever Indian private firm to make it to the list.

Mistry, 86, is said to be the world’s most reclusive billionaire. For a man ranked the fifth richest Indian by Forbes, with a wealth of $14.7 billion in 2015, he is surprisingly invisible, rarely seen or heard in public. His construction empire spans India, West Asia and Africa. But his biggest source of wealth remains his 18.4% stake in Tata Sons Ltd, the holding firm for the $109 billion Tata Group, chaired by his younger son Cyrus.

Mistry, along with his sons, are the largest individual shareholders in India’s most diversified business conglomerate. He is called, with a mixture of awe and curiosity, the Phantom at Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tata Group, in Mumbai.

Bhargava, 81, serves as chairman of the board at Maruti Suzuki. A former civil servant who held important positions, including joint secretary in the ministry of energy and joint secretary in the cabinet secretariat, joined Maruti in 1981. He is widely regarded as having been instrumental in the firm’s success.

Banga, 55, has been CEO and president of MasterCard since 1 July 2010 and 31 August 2009, respectively. He spent 13 years at Citibank before joining MasterCard in 2009. He also had a two-year stint at PepsiCo, where he was instrumental in launching its fast food franchises in India as the economy liberalized.

Shanghvi, 59, founded Sun Pharma in 1982 and has served as its managing director since 29 May 2012. A graduate in commerce from Kolkata University, he is a first-generation entrepreneur. His low-key management style has turned Sun Pharma, maker of generic and branded drugs, into one of the most profitable pharma firms in India.

Srivastava, 69, chairs the Indian operations of CA Technologies Inc., a $4.5 billion US software firm, and is one of India’s leading IT entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. He founded and chaired IIS Infotech, which was ranked among the top 20 Indian software firms within four years of its launch. He has since founded/invested in over 50 start-up ventures. He serves/has served on various boards of both private and publicly listed companies in the UK and India.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani described the Padma Vibhushan to his father as “an honour to the indomitable spirit of Indian entrepreneurship, innovation and ambition to always do better than the best in the world".

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