February 21, 2020
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Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries

It’s the thought of the future that drives Mukesh. “Everyone expected me to study textiles. I wanted to pursue chemical engineering, as I thought it was the future,” he has said.

Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries
Photograph by Saptarshi Biswas/Outlook Archives
Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries
  • In the last 10 years, Reliance’s profits have doubled to Rs 27,417 cr


India’s richest man began his company’s annual shareholders’ meeting last year by promising to script a new chapter in Indian business history. Then, he introduced the latest member of his Rs 2.92 lakh crore Reliance Industries—Jio, the 4G venture that has thrown the country’s telecom business in turmoil and set off a round of mergers and consolidations among scurrying rivals.

Ambani, 59, whose wealth is estimated at around Rs 1.70 lakh crore, joined Reliance in 1981 and became chairman and managing director 21 years later. He’s known to spot opportunities quickly. “The world is at the beginning of a digital revolution,” the oil and gas tycoon said last year. “Everything that can go digital is going digital at an exponential rate” and Jio, he informed shareholders, was so far the single biggest investment made by Reliance.

In the last ten years—brothers Mukesh and Anil parted ways in 2005, dividing the group companies among themselves following their father Dhirubhai Ambani’s death—Reliance Industries’ standalone profits have doubled to Rs 27,417 crore and so have revenues (Rs 2.5 trillion).

It’s the thought of the future that drives Mukesh, who is passionately involved with technology. “We were the biggest in textiles in the 1970s,” he told an interviewer last year. “Everybody expected me to study textiles. I wanted to pursue chemical engineering, because I thought it was the future.”

Last month, Mukesh reported that Jio reached 100 million customers in just five months. By the end of the year, he plans to mop up 99 per cent of India’s population. As he put it, the new venture’s aspirations are audacious even by global standards. “Nobody has put Rs 1,50,000 crore without seeing one dollar of revenue,” said the head of India’s biggest business group.

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