The year 2019 has been eventful for Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the country largest corporation. There were many firsts—the company topped the market capitalisation charts, breaching the ₹10 lakh-crore figure, it toppled the public sector Indian Oil Corporation to claim the No. 1 position on the Fortune India 500 list, and also unveiled its ambitious data-led triple play initiative. But look deeper, and there is a much bigger picture emerging. The year also saw what is a huge shift in RIL’s vision for itself, and the pieces of that big picture will fall in place one by one as 2020 unfolds. RIL’s chairman and Asia’s richest man, the 62-year-old billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has always been known to be a master of execution. And now, Ambani is putting in place the building blocks of his vision for a new RIL which will be responsive to the enormous disruption taking place in the world of business globally. Ambani articulated his broad vision for the new, future-ready RIL at the company’s August 2019 annual general meeting, and analysts, and the world of business, will be keenly watching how he puts the various elements of this plan in place.
Every year, Fortune India’s January issue focusses on that one big development in the world of business and economy which we like to call the ‘Move of the Year’. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ambani’s vision for RIL was clearly the biggest move in the world of Indian business in 2019. To better understand every detail of the mega Ambani game plan, deputy editor T. Surendar met several top executives at RIL across businesses, spoke to analysts, and also understood from other business leaders what the ramifications of the new Reliance could be. Mukesh Ambani himself articulated his plan to Fortune India, saying: “This is the age of disruption and there is no room for linear and static growth models.” Hence, pivoting RIL is now Ambani’s newest mission, one that will see him reshaping the megacorp, getting into new corporate structures, being more aggressive on acquisitions, and ensuring RIL is debt free. And given Ambani’s dexterity on the execution side, Team Reliance is now fully aligned to this new vision. Call it Reliance Redux, for the new business environment. RIL is exploring new structures to ensure the highest value is unlocked from its various businesses—from telecom to digital to retail—even while it eases the pressure on the capital expenditure side, having reached the end of the expenditure cycle in most part. Uncharacteristically, RIL has also opened itself up to joint ventures (in areas like oil and entertainment), and is thinking of leveraging its access to customers for possible new businesses like education, agriculture, health, and finance. Alongside, the big bet on digital commerce is also going to play out, where the company is expected to integrate consumers, producers, and merchants. Analysts are already calling it a project that may rival giants like Amazon. Tracking how the new Reliance takes shape will, no doubt, be fascinating, and Fortune India will be on the ball on that front.
As India enters a new decade, there are multiple challenges to grapple with. The economy is slowing down, and the government will have to pull out all stops to ensure it gets back on a faster growth trajectory. The new decade will also give rise to new ideas as entrepreneurs give shape to exciting ventures. We should look forward to the next decade with hope. On behalf of the Fortune India team, I wish you a prosperous and peaceful new decade.
(The Fortune India January 2020 issue is on stands. Subscribe here)