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Juggling Many Roles At Reliance

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Nita Ambani, 

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At an event to celebrate Guru Purnima in July, Nita Ambani, chairperson of Reliance Foundation, shared her father-in-law Dhirubhai Ambani’s routine of quizzing her on news topics every evening. The questions ranged from agriculture to the stock market to the political climate in Argentina. “He always believed in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams,” said Nita, citing that those sessions broadened her horizon. “Nothing is impossible if you chase your dreams with discipline and hard work,” she added.
Nita Ambani chased a dream a few thought was possible. She dreamt of presenting India on the world stage of art, sports, culture and heritage. She envisaged the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai on the lines of the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York, essentially to put India on the world map for arts and culture. She wanted the cultural centre to be home to all artists — from maestros to amateurs, established to emerging, and traditional to contemporary.
At The Met in New York, where she was named an Honorary Trustee in 2019, Nita recently presented an exhibition on early Buddhist art in India. It was to highlight India’s ancient culture and arts. In New York to support the exhibit, Nita said, “The exhibit has Buddhist art from 2nd century BC to 4th Century AD, about 140 pieces. India is the cradle of Buddhism and Buddhism is intertwined with Indian ethos.” She has been supporting The Met since 2016.
Regarding her other passion to enhance India’s sporting abilities, apart from RIL-promoted football tournament Indian Super League (ISL), and cricket team Mumbai Indians, Nita nurtures a dream of bringing Olympics to India. The Central government wanted her to present the country’s case at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where she’s a member, and it helped. The IOC annual session will be held in India after 40 years, at NMACC, in October. It will be a prelude to India’s bid for the 2036 Olympics. Nita also wants to win the bid to host the 2030 Youth Olympics in Mumbai since it would pave the way for the 2036 Olympics.
Nita is less involved in the business operations of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), though she is on the board of India’s most profitable company. But she influences most of the crucial decisions. Everyone else in the immediate family — husband Mukesh, children Isha, Akash and Anant — is in operational roles at RIL. At the dinner table at Antilia or the London home in Stokes Park or the Ambanis home in Dubai, the discussions are largely around the company’s businesses, and Nita has to chip in with her views every time, says a senior RIL executive.
Implementing a succession plan at RIL was another task before her. In consultation with her, Mukesh Ambani put together a plan where all their three children are entrusted with different group businesses. Isha now leads the retail business. Akash was appointed as the chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm. Anant, the youngest, was named as the director of the conglomerate’s renewable energy business.
In recent years, Nita has been busy with Reliance Foundation’s education and healthcare programmes, despite being caught up with marriages in the family and the birth of her grandchildren. She is also hand-holding daughter-in-law Shloka Mehta to take up more philanthropic initiatives. Shloka is already a known name in philanthropy through ConnectFor, an online platform she founded in 2015 to connect volunteers with NGOs.
According to Nita, her key priority is to create societal value through her work. “It is only when we stay mindful of our impact on people and the planet, that lasting legacies are built,” she says.
Reliance spent ₹1,186 crore towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) during FY22. In the previous year, it spent ₹1,140 crore. Reliance Foundation’s integrated healthcare model and delivery network focus on some of the most vulnerable sections of the society. During the pandemic, the Foundation undertook initiatives as part of its ‘We Care’ endeavour, including oxygen supply, Covid infrastructure, the Anna Seva programme, employee care, and free vaccine support, among others.
Reliance Foundation has also undertaken various initiatives to support Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) across the country. It assists farmers in developing market links, which in turn help them increase their incomes. It is actively engaged with over 100 FPOs. Around 63% of FPO members reported an incremental annual income of ₹40,000 or more in FY22, according to the Foundation.
The Foundation’s flagship programme Bharat India Jodo (BIJ) has worked on water interventions for the last 10 years. This initiative works with communities affected by variable rainfall, repeated droughts, dependency on rainfed agriculture, severe soil degradation, migration for manual work, lack of basic facilities, and uncertain earnings. To achieve its mission of providing education to children across the nation, Reliance delivers education to over 15,000 children annually through 14 schools, including the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai.