BW Businessworld

The Third Generation Takes Charge

C H Unnikrishnan on how Isha Ambani is playing a big role in Reliance Jio

As the market disrupter Jio gaining control over the Indian mobile voice and data space, the role of two young entrepreneurs in the company is becoming more significant. The leadership and vision of the 26-year old Isha and Akash Ambani, directors on the board of Reliance Jio, are important as this content driven market that it addresses predominantly belongs to the new generation. And Isha, one of India’s youngest billionaire heiresses and a Yale graduate in South Asian studies and psychology, can contribute a lot more to this industry, which is in the middle of a transformation at the moment.

Isha Mukesh Ambani, daughter of Mukesh and Nita Ambani, was inducted on the Boards of Reliance Jio Infocomm and Reliance Retail Ventures, the two customer facing and fast growing companies of Reliance Industries Ltd, in October, 2014. It was timed with the launch plan of the group's much touted 4G services in the country.

Ambani, who was named among the top 12 Powerful Upcoming Businesswomen in Asia in 2015, has already proved her leadership qualities with a keen involvement in the launch of Jio and certain fashion verticals of Reliance Retail. Perhaps, the choice of her billionaire father to bring Isha Ambani, a trained pianist and music lover, to the leadership role at these customer facing businesses could be based on her passion for the latest trends and the understanding of young customer.

The launch of the RIL’s telecom venture of Reliance Industries in September 2016 had brought the twins Akash and Isha Ambani into the spotlight as they have been working on the Jio team for the past two years.

“Jio is the creation of the young, by the young and for the young. Isha and Akash are directors at Jio. They have been hands-on leaders and represent the large contingent of young people at Jio,” he said. Shareholders present at the AGM urged the siblings to take up the mantle soon and take Reliance Jio to new heights,” said a proud father and RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani addressing the media and the public at the launch of his new mobile telecom venture.

Ranked 2nd on the Forbes’ Youngest Billionaire Heiresses list in 2008 with a net worth of at least ₹470 crore ($70 million) at the age of 16, Isha Ambani currently owns 0.11 per cent stake in Reliance Industries.

Younger by seven minutes to twin brother Akash, Isha Ambani completed her schooling at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai and graduation at Yale University. After graduation, she worked as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company's New York office. Of course, the McKinsey stint, as it is a routine with the next generation billionaire entrepreneurs, was a preparation for the young Ambani to take up a key management role in the family business, especially the new generation ventures.

Her induction at the Boards of these businesses was also timed with Reliance Jio’s plan for the big-bang launch of 4G service with a huge investment outlay and a market disruptive strategy in 2015. It was also coincided with the group’s refreshed focus on the retail business after it posted annual profit for the first time in 2014-15.

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