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Indian Entrepreneurs: 10 Greatest Businessmen From History

Updated on March 25, 2017
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Kannan loves to create articles comprising Top 10's/20's. He has a knack of preparing listicles that help readers and derive information.

Though entrepreneurship in India isn't new, Indian business has come a long way. There are numerous Indian companies listed on the Fortune 500 and a huge number of Indian billionaires.

Aspiring businessmen and women looking for inspiration would do well to study the achievements of India's greatest businessmen. Some on the list are especially inspiring because they managed to make their fortune during British rule, when the environment was not conducive for business and particularly for Indian business. The ones who succeeded in that environment went the extra mile to succeed. This list will give you a broad outline of the amazing journey some of these tycoons took.

Let's go back in history and celebrate the achievements of some of these greats.

1. Dhirubhai Ambani (1932 – 2002)

Business magnate
Business magnate

Dhirubhai Ambani is the most famous businessman in all of India. Even a five-year-old knows about him - or at least will recognize his last name. Ambani's journey took him from his life as a student in the dusty lanes of a small village in Gujarat to the major seaport city of Aden and finally to Bombay where he becomes the doyen of the Indian industry.

Though he wanted to continue his studies after finishing school, Dhirubhai could not afford to do so. So, he instead went to Aden, Yemen to earn money and improve his financial condition. In Aden he worked as a clerk for a trading firm. In those days, Aden was the second-busiest port in the world, and traders from across the world came here for business. He learned the ins and outs of trading and read everything that he could lay his hands on.

When British rule in Yemen came to an end, many Indian expatriates went either to Britain in search of better life or came back in India. Dhirubhai choose the latter and started his first business, Majin, with a cousin. He then quickly launched out on his own, founding Reliance Industries in 1966. As of now, the combined fortune of his family tops out at 60 billion dollars, making them one of the wealthiest families in the world. As of 2012, Reliance employs over 85,000 people and is responsible for over 5% of India's tax revenue.

Undoubtedly, he is the most famous Indian businessman of all time.

If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.

— Dhirubhai Ambani

2. Ghanshyam Das Birla (1894 – 1983)

Shrewd Businessman
Shrewd Businessman | Source

Inheriting his family’s money-lending business, Birla diversified into manufacturing. He moved to Calcutta to establish a textiles business, much to the displeasure of European and British merchants in the area, who did their best to shut Birla’s business down. Birla had to overcome not only resistance from established players but also the biased policies of the British government which discriminated against Bengali traders.

In the 1940s, Birla purchased Hindustan Motors and continued to diversify his business, investing in tea, cement, chemicals, and rayon. He was also the first Indian to found a commercial bank, the United Commercial Bank Limited. Now Aditya Birla group operates in more than 33 countries, employs over 133,000 people and has annual revenues of over $35 billion.

Birla also founded the Birla Engineering College - now the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, which is now one of the nation’s best engineering schools.

3. Ardeshir Godrej (1868 – 1936)

Lock master of India
Lock master of India

Ardeshir Godrej started out by studying law but didn't find much success as a lawyer. So, he went to Bombay and worked as an assistant to a chemist. Because of his great business sense of business, he saw everything as a business opportunity.

Taking a loan from his father's friend he started to manufacture medical equipment used in surgery, such as scalpels, surgeon's scissors, forceps, etc. When he was satisfied that the quality of his equipment was world-class, he approached the boss of the company he was working for. His boss thought the equipment was great, but rejected the "Made in India" label, believing it wouldn't be marketable. Adershir wouldn't budge and the venture never materialized.

Later, one morning he read in the newspaper that burglary rates in Bombay were increasing and that locks weren't working as well as they should. He saw that as a business opportunity and started to research lock making. This venture was so successful he is now known as the lockmaster of India.

Then he also made the first soap ever without animal fat: Cinthol, which is still used by millions of people.

The locks made his company famous and now the Godrej group has diversified itself in the business of real estate, appliances, security, FMCG products, etc.

4. Govindram Seksaria (1888 – 1946)

Cotton king of the world
Cotton king of the world

Not many people may know about him, but Govindram Seskaria is the most famous businessman of pre-independence India. At that time, British rule made it difficult for Indians to enter into business. Foreign businesses controlled most of India’s trade and those businesses were in turn supported by the government. But that didn’t deter Govindram. Govindram first joined the Bombay Cotton Exchange and was so successful as a cotton trader that he became known as the Cotton King of the World.

After his success in the cotton market, Govindram diversified and began trading in bullion and other commodities. A founding member of the Indian Stock Exchange, Govindram founded Govindram Brothers Private Limited in 1937. This company got into the sugar, textile, minerals, banking, printing, and movie businesses. In addition to founding the Bank of Rajasthan, he also was a principal donor in establishing Bombay Hospital.

Considering the hostile environment for Indians at the time of British Raj; Govindram is nothing short of a pearl in the ocean.

5. Bhai Mohan Singh (1917 – 2006)

Pioneer of the Indian pharma industry
Pioneer of the Indian pharma industry

Bhai Mohan Singh is a pioneering figure in India’s pharmaceutical industry. He began his career in the construction industry, winning contracts to build roads in northeastern India during WWII. After independence, Singh entered into the money lending business, which is how he came to acquire Ranbaxy from his cousins, after the company defaulted on some loans. Once Singh took over, he partnered with an Italian pharmaceutical company Lapetit Spa, which he later purchased.

In the 1960s, Singh launched an Indian version of valium called Calmpose and went on to release a series of blockbuster drugs. In 1999, Singh was replaced by his eldest son in a boardroom coup. Awarded the Padma Shri for his civic contributions, Singh died in 2006.

6. Jamsetji Tata (1839 – 1904)

The man behind TATA
The man behind TATA

Jamshetji Tata is the founder of the Tata Group, India's largest conglomerate which employs more than four lakh people and enjoys revenue of over $83 billion.

He started out by setting up cotton mills in Bombay and then Nagpur. His dream was to set-up an iron and steel company, a science institution, a world-class hotel, and a hydro-electric plant.

He only fulfilled one of these dreams in his lifetime: the Taj Mahal hotel, near the Gateway of India close to the Mumbai shoreline. According to legend, he wanted to found a world-class hotel because he was denied entry to a luxury hotel when he was visiting another country. Now, the Taj Mahal hotel is one of the most renowned in the world.

When you have to give the lead in action, in ideas – a lead which does not fit in with the very climate of opinion – that is true courage, physical or mental or spiritual, call it what you like, and it is this type of courage and vision that Jamsetji Tata showed. It is right that we should honour his memory and remember him as one of the big founders of modern India.

— Jawaharlal Nehru on Jamshetji Tata

7. Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (1904 – 1993)

The father of Indian aviation.
The father of Indian aviation.

If Jamsetji Tata started it, then J.R.D. Tata was the one who turned the Tata Group into an incredible success. J.R.D. Tata was also the one who fulfilled Jamsetji's final three wishes. Currently, the Tata Group owns and operates

  • Tata Steel - Asia's first and India's largest steel company. It is also the fifth largest steel company in the world, producing over 28 million tons per year.
  • Indian Institute of Sciences - India's pre-eminent research institution for science and engineering.
  • Tata Power - India's largest private electric power company.

JRD Tata was an aviator and was India's first licensed pilot. He set up India's first commercial airline company known as Tata Airlines in 1932 which was rechristened as Air India in 1946 and is now India's national airline. For his achievement in business he was awarded the highest civilian award of India: Bharat Ratna.

8. Kailash Chandra Mahindra (1894 – 1963)

Sophisticated and Meticulous.
Sophisticated and Meticulous.

K.C. Mahindra was born in 1894 in the Punjab, the second of nine children. After studying at Cambridge, for a brief while he worked at Messrs. Martin & Company editing monthly magazines INDIA and the Hindustan Review.

In the 1940s, he went into the energy business, and helped develop the nation’s coal policy by implementing the latest methods of coal mining.

In 1946, he moved to Bombay to found Mahindra & Mohammed, which became an industrial powerhouse in many sectors of the economy. One of the founders was his brother Jagdish Chandra Mahindra and the other one was his close friend Ghulam Mohammad. But after India's partition Ghulam Mohammad went to Pakistan and the company was renamed as Mahindra and Mahindra.He was also director of RBI, Air India, Hindustan Steel, and Chairman of the Indian Aluminium Company.

If J.C Mahindra was the dreamer then K.C Mahindra was the implementer. K.C Mahindra was known for his micro-approach to everything and was a great executor.

9. Verghese Kurien (1921 – 2012)

The man behind the White Revolution of India
The man behind the White Revolution of India

Verghese Kurien used his entrepreneurial skills to enrich not only himself but also all of India. The “Father of the White Revolution,” Kurien planned and implemented Operation Flood, the world’s largest agricultural development program, which turned India into the world’s largest milk producer. He helped make dairy farming a self-sufficient and sustaining industry.

Kurien is also the founder of the Amul brand of dairy products, which invented milk powder processed from buffalo milk rather than cow milk. One of the world’s strongest proponents of cooperative movements, his work has lifted millions of Indians out of poverty.

His birth anniversary is now celebrated as National Milk Day in respect of his great achievements.

10. Walchand Hirachand Doshi (1882 – 1953)

Dreamer and Achiever
Dreamer and Achiever

Walchand Hirachand didn't belong to a wealthy family. His father was a small-time money lender but he had set his mind on something bigger. He dreamt big and made that happen.

Simple living and big thinking were Walchand's foremost traits.

He got started first as a railway contractor in partnership with Laxmanroa Phatak who was a railway clerk. Walchand was not content to sit quietly; he was always incredibly ambitious and worked actively to achieve his goals. While a railway contractor, Walchand bought a foundry and then a mining lease. Whatever business he got into, Walchand grabbed it with both hands. However, these decisions didn't sit well with his partner, who wanted to concentrate on a single business rather than diversifying. His partner soon quit.

The original firm found it difficult to get large projects because of its small size so he decided it to merge with the Tata group. Walchand directed and oversaw some of the biggest construction projects of the pre-independence era. The construction company he founded was later named Premier Construction, with a major stake owned by Tata.

In his later years, he went on to start a shipping company, the Scindia Steam Navigation Company which went on to grab 21% of the Indian coastal traffic. He then went on to found the first Indian aircraft company, the Hindustan Aircraft, first modern shipyard, known as Hindustan Shipyard Limited, and finally first car manufacturing plant, Premier Automobiles.

Who Inspires You the Most?

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    • profile image

      sachin yadav 4 months ago

      im really fully inspired by the ambanies life style how he grew with struggle n obstacle with zero base to hero position really awesome....

    • profile image

      Siddu 5 months ago

      All of them are greater , they made India shine . But Verghese Kurien is more highlighted person in this list because he also support for public as much as possible 'his work has lifted millions of Indians out of poverty' that make as good in public services also . This 'His birth anniversary is now celebrated as National Milk Day in respect of his great achievements ' great to know this . Hatts off .

    • profile image

      kiran kumar 7 months ago

      Hatts off to my inspiration, D AMBANI JI

    • kannanwrites profile image
      Author

      Kannan Reddy 8 months ago from Mumbai

      @Kevinesh Well said!!!

    • profile image

      Kevinesh 8 months ago

      ALL OF THEM ARE GEMS AND EXCELLENT AS EQUALLY TALENTED IN THEIR FIELD. THE MOST IMPORTANT THAT THEY HAD WERE HOPE, DETERMINATION AND IN LOVE/PASSION IN WHAT THEY DO. AS THE RESULT, THEY HAVE NOT ONLY CHANGED THEIR LIVES ABOVE ALL EVERY SINGLE PERSON LIVES IN INDIA FOREVER. MAKING INDIA PROUD WITH THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE GROWTH OF THE COUNTRY.

      JAI HIND!

    • profile image

      Pooja shah 11 months ago

      their efforts and high thinking made them a successful people...simple living high thinking ....which leads to success.....

    • profile image

      siddharth Indrajit 12 months ago

      Indeed entrepreneurs play an important role when it comes to development. India has witnessed lots of entrepreneurs in the past and will witness it for long. Tech Start Ups have actually sparked up India and taken a big leap in this competing world. Along with tech even infrastructure industry is growing with a much higher pace. Entrepreneurs like Oberois, Raheja, Rustumjee, Varun Manian (Radiance Realty) -http://varunmanian.info/ , Adityaram Group are working hard towards the real estate market and try and make it affordable for the people. Even some of the entrepreneurs are working on Transport and Communication sector making this world a better place.

    • profile image

      AFIFA 12 months ago

      JRD Tata is one of my inspiration

    • profile image

      nareshkhatik 12 months ago

      this man great success are that life statuble..

    • profile image

      Rupam yadav 13 months ago

      What a great person all above these. I SALUT THEM

    • profile image

      dinesh shukla 13 months ago

      fascinating enterprenures

    • profile image

      rani 13 months ago

      we are felling very proud about indian good business mens

    • profile image

      vikram khatri 13 months ago

      The next one is me

      Wait for my name also very soon

    • profile image

      Tushar patil 14 months ago

      THE BEST ONE IS DHIRUBHAI AMBANI SIR,MY BEST INSPIRATION EVER I WISH THAT I CAN ALSO BE ABLE TO DO THIS TYPE OF STRUGGLE

    • profile image

      amar khurana 14 months ago

      proud to be indian,,Inspired by the greatest industrialist of india. all these people are instrumental in giving us the motivation and hope to dream big in life.I solute to all for being instrumental in taking india to new heights in respective fields.

    • profile image

      Anand 14 months ago

      A very well written article! Definitely inspiring to see how they beat all the odds to become successful.

    • profile image

      Thulasi ram.p 16 months ago

      Is a great man .I thinking positive and I achieve something .my role model Dhirubhai Ambani.

    • profile image

      Rakesh 16 months ago

      I love to learn the great businessman from lower to upper level

    • profile image

      Sudarshan 19 months ago

      All of them I am going to be one of them soon......

    • profile image

      vinodkumar 20 months ago

      sabka andaaz alag hai..every1 successed within different fields..so think different n do diffrnt and be different..

    • profile image

      Vinu patidar 20 months ago

      Hosale bulande to har kaam aasan lageta hi bus lage raho

    • profile image

      Mohit senger 21 months ago

      Successful business sirf peso nhi ek ache idea Se successful business banta h....or ek or businessman a rha h Mohit Senger ok

    • profile image

      Khumesh 21 months ago

      I like all 10 Indian Entrepreneurs: Greatest Businessman From History and his current generation as well and i inspired all of them and i am trying to be

      Thanks all Greatest Businessman of history

      I salute them

    • profile image

      karan mishra 21 months ago

      thanks for inspire me ..... i tried all efforts of mine and now i have 3 factories

      of plastic and tyres moulding at the age of 27....

    • profile image

      Anupam Patra 21 months ago

      I love entreprenure . Who take any risk . &any other decision

    • profile image

      ALI HUSSAIN 22 months ago

      i like 10 successful man

    • profile image

      priya kashyap 22 months ago

      thank you so much for this information

    • profile image

      Vishnu musne 22 months ago

      Life me kuch bhi ho sakta hai

    • profile image

      shivendra kumar sinha 23 months ago

      These all people are inspired to myself...

    • profile image

      sudhir chaudhary .ansh. 23 months ago

      Thease stories motivate the youngsters and it will make new entrepreneurs...

    • profile image

      Mayookh 2 years ago

      Marvelous and inspiring indeed.Our indian enterpreneurs did so splendid in business even in a situation when the conditions of the businessmen were deplorable.

    • profile image

      rizwan seliya 2 years ago

      No comments yar.

      What a history yar..

    • profile image

      vaibhav 2 years ago

      Encourage but comptetion level high, gud business needs more money

    • profile image

      Atul yadav 2 years ago

      this time very important

    • kannanwrites profile image
      Author

      Kannan Reddy 2 years ago from Mumbai

      @supreet Thanks for the encouraging word and the visit.

    • profile image

      supreet.. 2 years ago

      1st time i am giving feedback relating to any article. Really very motivational Article..thanks for posting it..Do Hard work & Hope 4 the best.

    • profile image

      sihal 2 years ago

      If i earn mony right way that time I part above Team and thanks all articals

    • profile image

      Ramprasanth 2 years ago

      This peoples are long time india definitely united is tacking in united states of India achieve conform nothing is impossible

    • profile image

      amit dargar 2 years ago

      इन सभी ने जिंदगी मेँ बहुत मेहनत के साथ ये मुकाम हासिल किया हे लेकिन इस मेहनत के पीछे कहीँ भी शामिल हे जिसे भुलाया नहीँ जा सकता

    • profile image

      sarithareddy 2 years ago

      all are very great persons

    • profile image

      Raj Rathor 2 years ago

      Nothing imposible but every thing is possible

      Jo socho bo kro aor hr sapna sakar kro, hr icchha ko pura kro aor dunia me apne nam ka jhanda lahra do,,,,,, i am best, successful topno. Businessman,,,,,,, ok uuuuuu

      Me raj rathor 2030 last tk puri dunia me apne hi nam ke nare lge ge ek success aor helpful,,,, ",,"",",,,,"

      rajrathorbca91@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Raj mishra 2 years ago

      Good luck .Good Lisan .Good tok

    • profile image

      chinna 2 years ago

      They made a strong way for upcoming businessman ....

    • kannanwrites profile image
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      Kannan Reddy 2 years ago from Mumbai

      @Nirav parmar All the best!

    • profile image

      Nirav parmar 2 years ago

      Dhirubhai....my best....and their way I improve my life on new way....I start to try now

    • kannanwrites profile image
      Author

      Kannan Reddy 2 years ago from Mumbai

      @prasenjeet So true!

    • profile image

      prasenjeet 2 years ago

      The secret of the world

      Inshan Jo sochta hai wahi hota hai

      Power of mind

    • profile image

      Rajkishore Pradhan 2 years ago

      I want to say thanks the person who post this articles because i didn't knew about the backstory of successful entrepreneurs of india. I will be an entrepreneur in future to develop my country economy condition.

    • profile image

      jyoti 2 years ago

      I like all businessman of World. zindgi aisi Hai Ki Jahan Kuch Bhi impossible Nhi

    • profile image

      gopal prajapati 2 years ago

      hard work+positive thinking=success

    • profile image

      susanta dash 2 years ago

      indasterlist is god

    • profile image

      MAHENDRA BENIWAL 2 years ago

      LAGAN AUR MEHANT SE MNUSHY KUCH BI KAR SKTA HAI,

      LIFE ME AAGE BADNE KE LIYE PARESHANI TO UTHANI PADTI HAI PAR JAB VO RANG LATI HAI TO SARI THAKAN DUR HO JATI HAI.

    • kannanwrites profile image
      Author

      Kannan Reddy 2 years ago from Mumbai

      @Rajat May all your wishes come true. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      Rajat 2 years ago

      Hum bhi inhe ke tarah khuch karna chahta hu life me..

      Kahate hai na jidhar chah hai udhar rah so..

      So Best of Luck Guy's..

    • profile image

      satish singh 2 years ago

      ''They have all redey make history but you are a reader.

      NO you can do so think about it because you will be a no-1 business man in the WORLD''

    • profile image

      vikram saini 2 years ago

      हम भी बनाएगे एक इतिहास ।।।मेक इन इंडिया।। मेड इन इंडिया । मेड फॉर इंडिया।।। जय भारत

    • profile image

      shivaji chichakote 2 years ago

      jemashedji tata is a father of industrial development, is a very unique personality and im inspired by this .

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

      Indian people work a lot to get were they want to go. My respect for the good people that work a lot and respect others. History is made by different people. I am certain that are other successful business people that are not on the list because they were busy working or they did not want to be public. They like their privacy. I like your article.

    • profile image

      visha pandey 2 years ago

      Sapne or hosle bade hone chahiye kuch kar dikhane ka jajba insan ko uski manjil tak pahuchati hai. I salute all business man n specially salute dhirubhai ambani........one day I also become successful businessman

    • profile image

      kunal 2 years ago

      Its inspire me to became like them

    • profile image

      kunal 2 years ago

      I will next like them

    • profile image

      nikki 2 years ago

      Great achivement

    • profile image

      mukesh kangasiya 2 years ago

      This is opportunity to learn about leader of buissnessmam.

    • profile image

      m.m.sodha 2 years ago

      thinking better ,and i aspire this story become a great business.

    • profile image

      quraisholdboys 2 years ago

      Salute to all of u

    • profile image

      Stab dey 2 years ago

      I love Dhlrubhal Ambani's story..

    • profile image

      sunil singh 3 years ago

      Ardeshir Godrej inapire me to from his tqo biggest failure to increadble success.

    • profile image

      PRAMOD WAREKAR 3 years ago

      JRD TATA............ GREAT INDIAN BUSSINESSMEN

    • profile image

      Prem pardeshi 3 years ago

      Mr.Dhirubhai Ambani is great creative of his own life.....

      Muze unki ek kahani bahot pasand hai Taj me chay pine wali...He says bada sochane se kuch bada ya accha hota hai...

    • profile image

      peter lobo 3 years ago

      most were opportunists , who grabbed the opportunity in the 2 world wars

    • profile image

      GAGAN PARINDA 3 years ago

      BritisherS NEVER did well with indian. so never ever believe on them.they r in India with new strategy , to changing the cast.

    • profile image

      aa 3 years ago

      All businessman is very good positing in our world

    • profile image

      Aditi 3 years ago

      Dhirubhai should be placed third, JRD first, and Jamsetji second.

    • AvineshP profile image

      Avinesh Prahladi 3 years ago from Chandigarh

      Above mentioned are some of the inspiring people of India. Without a doubt, they are the path breakers and played a key role in changing the status of India on a global level. People like Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani, without a doubt, enjoys the top position and he is the main inspiration behind so many budding entrepreneurs.

    • profile image

      melwin paul 4 years ago

      There is no doubt that Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani is India's most brilliant & successful business man of all times and the only business man who made such a huge empire in one generation in indian history! As an Indian always proud of this great legend. Melwin

    • profile image

      NAG 4 years ago

      ISKO TAKDHIR NAHI KHATHE HAI , E SAB EK DINKA KOSHISISH NAHI UTNA ASAN BHI NAHI . GET HARD WORK AND REACH THE GOAL. NYRU3666VJWADA@GMAIL.COM

    • profile image

      Rajmani 4 years ago

      khte hai jab takdeer aadmi ke sath chl rha ho to kya krega koi lekin jjba jab aadmi ke sath ho to to tkdeer khud b khud bdal kr aadmi ke sath chl deti hai,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      ye personality es baat ke example hai

    • profile image

      BIJESH PLATE 4 years ago

      THESE ALL ARE THE BEST EXAMPLE OF ENTERPRENEURS. THESE PEOPLE WERE MAGICIAN AND HAD A SKILL TO SEE A DREAM AND MAKE IT TRUE. AND SHOW THE RESULT O THEIR BURNING DESIRE....................... SUCH AN INSPIRING STORY

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 4 years ago from Pune( India)

      The stories are inspiring and for developing India it is important to have such entrepreneurs who started from scratch. These people and their business is backbone of our economy and strength to show the world.

      During 1965 and 1971 war with neighbor we experienced the importance of indigenous industry and skill. Super powers have some designs to destabilize and divide India but strong industrial base India withstood all shocks and International plot and machinations.

      My salute to above businessmen who built modern India.

      pramod gokhale

    • profile image

      saamy 5 years ago

      The all above magnates had crossed all the difficult path and left the path as history for future generation.

    • rtburroughs2 profile image

      Robert Burroughs 5 years ago

      I love learning about Indian culture. Great article.

    • kannanwrites profile image
      Author

      Kannan Reddy 5 years ago from Mumbai

      @Simone Smith Yes indeed there life stories are very inspiring.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, all of these entrepreneurs are new to me. What cool people! I *had* heard of Tata Airlines before, so it was cool to learn a bit more about Ratanji Tata. I hadn't realized the name came from a person.

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