Mukesh Ambani quits firm’s board, Akash to be executive chairman
The Scion has risen in the Ambani empire.
The $104-billion Reliance Industries has unveiled the first chapter of its succession plan with Mukesh Ambani resigning from the board of Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL).
He will be succeeded by elder son Akash Ambani, 30, who has been elevated to the position of executive chairman.
RJIL is mainly engaged in the business of providing digital services.
Six months ago, during the Reliance Family Day that is held every year to celebrate the birthday of the group’s late patriarch Dhirubhai Ambani, the RIL chairman had dropped a bombshell by talking about a “leadership transition”.
This was the first time that Mukesh had indicated that he was ready to formally pass on the baton to the younger generation, fuelling speculation that more responsibilities would soon be thrust on his three children: Akash and twin sister Isha, and Anant Ambani.
In a regulatory filing made to the stock exchanges, the country’s largest private conglomerate said the board of RJIL had approved the appointment of non-executive director Akash M. Ambani as chairman of the board. As a consequence, Mukesh has resigned as director of the company effective from the close of working hours on Monday.
This is the first time that Mukesh is stepping back from a key business segment under Reliance Industries.
The succession has been carefully planned; Akash has been closely involved with the business from its inception. Sources said the scion had been involved in the discussions that led up to Jio’s recent acquisitions of firms like Haptik, Radisys, Tessaract and Saavn.
RJIL, which holds 4G licences, posted a total income of Rs 20,945 crore during the quarter ended March 31, 2022, and Rs 77,204 crore for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2022.
During the period, gross revenues at Jio Platforms — the flagship company that owns all Jio digital services brands including RJIL — stood at Rs 26,139 crore and Rs 95,804 crore, respectively.
Mukesh will continue to be the chairman of Jio Platforms Ltd.
Sources said Akash had been closely involved with the disruptive and inclusive growth path charted by the digital services and consumer retail propositions of the Reliance group and was now leading the creation of the “convergence dividend” for over 500 million consumers, digitally and with high-inclusivity across geographies and income levels.
His elevation as chairman of RJIL recognises the specific contributions made by him to the digital services journey and rededicates him to even higher levels of responsibilities, going forward.
Akash, who graduated from Brown University with a major in economics, was closely involved with the creation of the digital ecosystem around Jio’s 4G proposition. He was involved with a team of engineers in inventing and launching an India-specific focused Jiophone in 2017.
He has also shown interest in harnessing the strength of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as well as blockchain technology while developing new capabilities at RJIL.
Reliance watchers do not rule out the possibility of Mukesh throwing more light on the latest appointment at RIL’s forthcoming annual general meeting — the date for which has yet to be announced.
Of Mukesh’s three children, Akash and Isha focus on the telecom and retail business. While Akash looks after the technology aspect of these businesses, Isha concentrates on improving customer experience.
It is widely speculated that Mukesh will hand over charge of the retail business to Isha in the future. Anant, who is the youngest of the three, is tipped to be looking after RIL’s new energy initiatives. He has also been inducted on the board of RIL’s two new solar firms.
For Akash, the elevation comes ahead of the 5G auction set for late July and will be the first major test after taking charge.
The Reliance group was founded by Dhirubhai Ambani in 1973. He expanded the business from textiles and made Reliance Industries into a vertically integrated firm. Later, the company ventured into telecom.
However, differences emerged between Mukesh and his younger brother Anil Ambani after Dhirubhai’s death, leading to the division of the empire in 2005.
While Mukesh got refining, petrochemicals, oil and gas and textile businesses, Anil gained control of telecommunications, asset management, entertainment and power generation.
The elder brother was successful in expanding his piece of the empire and is now pumping billions of dollars into clean energy.