| Reliance chief Mukesh Ambani with minister of law & justice H.R. Bhardwaj in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 21: The Ambani brothers — Mukesh and Anil — have for long steered clear of chambers of commerce and the causes they champion, choosing instead to engage the government in a dialogue on the issues where they have a special interest.
But the times, they are a’ changin’.
Since the split in the Ambani empire in January, both brothers are beginning to evince greater interest in the affairs of the chambers of commerce and the policy prescriptions in whose support they lobby the government.
About a year ago, Anil became a patron member of Assocham. Mukesh followed a couple of months later.
As patron members of Assocham, they are expected to play a key role in decision making. The brothers pay Rs 3 lakh each annually as subscription which automatically gives each a seat on the managing committee of Assocham, the top decision and policy-making division within the industry forum.
Historically, the Ambanis have communicated their views on important economic issues directly to the top government officials and ministers.
Sources claim that they are now showing keener interest in the positions that the industry bodies are formulating on a variety of subjects.
“Yes, they are now interested in several important activities pertaining to industry,” said sources in the chamber.
As a result, the chambers have also started taking greater note of their views. While Assocham invited elder brother Mukesh to deliver the keynote address on ‘law and business’ today, younger brother Anil is expected to come early next month to address it on issues relating to the proposed broadcasting bill.
Sources say since the two brothers formally separated their businesses in January, this is the first time that Mukesh Ambani is addressing any forum organised by a chamber.
In Assocham, Anil and Mukesh head two different committees. While Mukesh heads the chamber's retail and special economic zone (SEZ) committee, brother Anil is in charge of telecom and infrastructure committee. But the brothers, who are working at a frenzied pace to expand their various businesses, are pressed for time and have been largely represented on these committees by their hand-picked experts.
Both also have representation on other committees by virtue of their experts who participate at the deliberations of various sectoral committees.
Besides heading their respective committees, sources in the chamber said, the two brothers have shown interest in areas of bio and nanotechnology, taxation, civil aviation and infrastructure.
Earlier, the two brothers have occasionally addressed conferences organised by industry association — Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), sources said.
Reliance is not a member of the other apex chamber — Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) — but the brothers have been invited to the deliberations of the various committees of the industry chamber.