Dhirubhai H Ambani, India's largest wealth-creator and whose sons are currently on the Forbes list, chased the number 13 with an unusual vigor. What everyone called unlucky and hence under priced became his favorite bargain. The number plates of his cars totaled 13, the office floors that he would be happy to buy were 13 and so on and so forth. A perfect contrarian risk taker he was always, including in the choice of what constitutes luck. February 7th, 2001, I met him, perhaps primarily on the merit of the duration of the meeting that I sought with him was for 13 minutes. It was simple to decipher from the number plates of his cars what it would take to get me to meet him.

The day after I sent the letter seeking this meeting, his secretary called up asking why would I need to see Mr. Ambani.

I promptly replied to his secretary that, "I assume you must be someone close to him if you are aware that I have sought to meet him. However, without meeting him yet I do not have his permission to reveal to any other the need for which I seek to meet him."

His secretary fumed at me, "What should I tell my boss then?"

I quietly told him on the phone, "If I were in your position I would tell my boss exactly what I hear, though I am not going to the extent of suggesting to you how you should be doing your job."

The Secretary dropped the receiver.

Thirty minutes later he called up informing me that his boss wanted to see me the next morning at 11.30 a.m.

Dhirubhai was known throughout his career for his ingenuity and I hoped through this conversation with his secretary to communicate to him until I met him a certain level of ingenuity in my enterprise.

However, when I got to see him the next day, the charm and charisma of an all time tycoon gripped me very quickly.

At the end of a very motivating 13 minutes or so when I rose to greet him and bid good wishes I still continued to see a plain face.

However, as I reached the exit of his huge personal office I could hear him burst out in a hearty laughter. I looked back at him in amazement and he said, "Son, you have had your tea but you forgot to put the sugar in it."

I recalled his secretary had specifically asked if I would take a tea with sugar or without and I had requested some on the side.

Back in the elevator I thus realized, at the ripe age at which Dhirubhai was then, the power of such minute observation, the persistence to scan through a person without disturbing the process of observation and to derive pure innocent joy that only a child could from things understood minute by others is perhaps the hallmark of a visionary of any times.

Victor Niederhoffer comments:

Just to inject a bit of quantitative mumbo into the picture, the last 23 friday the 13ths have been visited with a rise of 1/4 of % in SPU and unchanged in bonds. Completely insignificant in each.


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