The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhirubhai breezes past the Post to posterity

New Delhi, Nov. 22: Dhirubhai Ambani was probably too busy to play cricket, but on this list he will be the Twelfth Man.

The Department of Posts has decided to release a postage stamp in honour of the industry doyen coinciding with his birthday on December 28.

Dhirubhai Ambani, who died on July 6 this year, will be the 12th industrialist to be so honoured by the department of posts starting with Jamshedji Tata. Others on the list include Laxmanrao Kirloskar, Ardaseer Cursetji Wadia, M. Visvervaraya, Jamnalal Bajaj, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, Narottam Morarjee, G. D. Birla, J. R. D Tata, A. D. Shroff and Chaganlal K. Parekh. Communications minister Pramod Mahajan and his deputy Sanjay Paswan—the chairman and vice-chairman respectively of the Philatelic Advisory Committee (PAC)—have formally approved the proposal.

“The proposal was received by the PAC in October and we had been working on it. There are few guidelines that needs to be followed before a commemorative postage stamp can be released in the honour of a distinguished personality,” a senior official in the department of posts said. The inaugural cover of the stamp will carry Dhirubhai’s portrait and is expected to be priced at Rs 5.

“We have not yet finalised the portrait. Our artists are working on it. Unless there is a specific demand on the picture or denomination from the Ambani family, we will go ahead with our plans,” the official said.

The honour comes amid reports that the home ministry is considering conferring a Padmashri on the Reliance group founder.

Dhirubhai may be the Twelfth Man but he’s scored over everyone else: the stamp in his honour will be issued within six months of his death—the shortest time within which the honour has been conferred. For instance, both GD Birla and JRD Tata got the honour on their first death anniversaries—a full year later. GD Birla died in June 1983 and a stamp on his name was released in June 1984; JRD Tata died in 1993 and the stamp was released in 1994.

The department expects to hit a jackpot with Ambani’s stamp. Reliance has more than 3.3 million shareholders and if everyone buys one stamp, it would translate into sales of Rs 1.65 crore.

Though the postal department may have acted in haste in honouring the Polyester Prince, Reliance and the postal department haven’t had a very easy relationship: one reason for this was the huge shareholder pool and the documents that the company had to send out to them.

“India’s creaky postal department couldn’t cope with the number of share certificates, annual reports and other correspondence which Reliance entered into with its family of investors. The company had to fly executives to smaller cities with mail as personal luggage that was then posted locally,” says an extract culled from a booklet on Dhirubhai distributed by Reliance Industries soon after his death.

So, there will be two events to celebrate on December 28: the release of the Dhirubhai stamp and the rollout of Reliance Infocomm's Wireless in Local Loop (WiLL) service which the company claims will be the “cheapest” telecom service in the country.

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