The Ambanis had a 3 Cs mantra — and it has changed over a generation

  • Anil Ambani paraphrases his father's quote on 3Cs.
  • Dhirubhai Ambani has warned against chelas, chamchas and cronies.
There is one thing common with almost all of Anil Ambani’s speeches—his father, Dhirubhai Ambani’s quotes. The chairman of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) would constantly refer to him as the ‘father of Indian capital markets’ and recount his advice, during good and bad times.

Over the years, however the younger Ambani brother has ventured to tinker with his father’s famous sayings. In his latest interview, Anil paraphrased his father’s 3C quote. Speaking extensively on the problems that the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are facing, he said that India Inc is hit by 3 C’s –cash, courts and credit rating agencies.

Cash, courts & credit ratings

Anil shares all his problems with many others in India Inc. Credit rating agency CARE sharply downgraded his company, Reliance Capital’s long-term and sub-ordinated debt by three notches.

Courts have not been kind to him at either. He came close to striking distance of the ‘long-arm’ of judiciary after another company of Reliance Communications, which closed its operations, came under scanner. The apex court directed Anil to either pay the outstanding dues amounting to ₹4.6 billion (₹459 crore) back to Ericcsson or face jail. However, his brother Mukesh Ambani bailed him out a day before the deadline ended.

Cash is the only problem he faces that is common to the entire shadow banking sector. The Reserve Bank of India had tightened liquidity coverage norms to the sector, at a time when the troubled sector is seeking help.

Dad said so

Much before Anil’s latest definition, 3Cs was popularized by Dhirubhai, who charted a long and arduous journey from a gas station attendant to build the country’s biggest business empire.

And, Anil loved to remind it to everyone who would listen. He first quoted his father saying, “Dad was always direct and would say, watch out for the 3Cs— chelas (loosely translated as followers), chamchas (sychophants) and cronies.”

This was first said when Anil wrote a letter to the undivided Reliance Group employees while he was at war with his brother, Mukesh Ambani. The now patched up Ambani brothers have been feuding since 2004, when they had finally split the erstwhile Reliance Industries.

A persuasive young Bania

When a young, strapping and exuberant Dhirubhai entered the big world of business as a yarn trader, he faced a clique of old world gentleman of the ‘License Raj’ era. As he waged a famous war and won by all means possible, he encountered coteries of gatekeepers in a closed economy that made things difficult for first-time entrepreneurs like Ambani---in his version of 3Cs.

But his sons however inherited his well-built legacy. They also play in a liberalised economy, but neither of them took it easy. This is in spite of doubts raised on their capabilities like Hamish McDonald, the author of biography on Polyester Prince had said, “Either individually or put together, however, the two sons seemed unlikely to display all the attributes of Dhirubhai.”

Both the brothers too entered new businesses and took up ventures and risks as much as entrepreneurs, albeit with varying degrees of success.

However, their problems in today’s day and age are much different from their father’s. The market is disruptive, banks are facing their own troubles and consumers are becoming tougher to please.

Anil who clearly inherited his father’s penchant for sharp quotes, has his modernized version of 3Cs. One can only wonder what the famously private Mukesh’s version is.
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