Mukesh Ambani, an Indian business tycoon, is the richest man in Asia. He is the chairman and MD of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the most valuable company in India, of which he is the largest shareholder as well. He shot to global fame recently after reaching the top 5 of Forbes’ Billionaires List, where he now stands at No. 6.
The Family Business
Reliance was founded in 1966 by Mukesh Ambani’s father Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani and was in the polyester business. In 1975, the company introduced “Vimal”, its expansion into the textile industry. Mukesh dropped out of his MBA course at Stanford University when in 1980 his father called him back to help with the business and lead a polyester filament yarn manufacturing project. Later he led the backward integration, owning all parts of the production process, by entering petrochemicals, the raw material of polyester.
Between 1980-2000, Reliance made great progress and was rated favorably by international credit rating agencies. It also expanded into telecom and LPG business. Reliance built the world’s largest refinery in Gujarat, where the Ambanis hail from.
Division of the empire
Mukesh was leading the rapid growth of business with his father. In 2002, Dhirubhai succumbed to a stroke without leaving a will. Mukesh and his younger brother Anil were part of a feud that lasted until the end of the decade even though the business was divided in 2005 after their mother Kokilaben’s intervention.
Mukesh had received the petrochemicals and the Reliance Industries Ltd while his brother Anil got the newer telecom, finance, and electricity businesses. Mukesh was the face of Reliance even when his father was at the top, which helped him in the market. His RIL today is one of the biggest players in multiple sectors like telecommunications, retail, media, television, entertainment, music, banking, and software.
Entering the digital age
In recent years, Ambani has been interested in making Reliance less dependent on the petroleum side and focussing on the digital side more. The Jio Platforms, technology, and e-commerce subsidiary of RIL is Ambani’s way out of relying on oil-price futures for business. (Financial Express)
With Jio, his plans are just getting started and his aim is to make Reliance’s presence known in all digital sectors.
At AGM of RIL on August 12, 2019, Mukesh had promised investors to make Reliance net debt-free by March 31, 2021. After investments from global business giants including Google, Facebook, Mubadala, and PIF, it fulfilled it in June 2020, a lot earlier than promised. (The Economic Times)
The investments and the bullish outlook of RIL in the market helped its shares reach the best ever prices. This was why Mukesh Ambani gained massive wealth in a short period and became the sixth richest person in the world.
The most influential businessman
As one would expect, Mukesh Ambani has a lot of power in the country due to his great wealth. He even made it to the Time 100 as one of the most influential people in the world after Jio, RIL’s telco launched in 2016, disrupted the Indian telecom market with its cheap internet plans and became one of the biggest players in a matter of years.
Ambani’s influence in the political sphere is often a subject of discussions as well with many considering him the man behind the thrones of elected leaders. He also has an influence on media. He owns Network 18, a television network that also runs news channels, but his influence is over other large media houses too. In 2018, stories about his son were taken down by multiple media houses without any explanations. (The Wire)
On social media, he is seen by many as the face of bad capitalism while others see him as the greatest Indian entrepreneur of today’s times. He lives with a dichotomy that all the big names have to but it is safe to assume, after all these years, he isn’t planning on doing it any different.
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