Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate, Reliance Industries (RIL) has stepped down as director of its telecom subsidiary Reliance Jio Infocomm.
On June 27, Jio’s board of directors surprised the industry by appointing his elder son Akash Ambani as their new chairman. The 30-year-old has been a non-executive director with Jio since May 2020.
Over the years, Akash Ambani has been actively involved with Jio and is said to have played a crucial role in its success.
It must be noted that Mukesh Ambani will remain chairman of Reliance Jio Platforms, the holding company for all of RIL’s digital services, including Jio.
The reason for Akash Ambani’s deep involvement is that Reliance Jio was his brainchild as much as his sister Isha Ambani’s.
“The idea of Jio was first seeded by my daughter, Isha, in 2011. She was a student at Yale and was home for the holidays. She wanted to submit some coursework, and she said, ‘Dad, the internet in our house sucks,’” Ambani said at an event in 2018.
Akash Ambani further convinced their father about digital broadband being the future.
“India at the time was suffering from poor connectivity and a severe scarcity of the most critical digital resource: data. It was not only scarce but it was priced artificially high to make it unaffordable to a majority of Indians,” the RIL chief said.
He launched Reliance Jio in 2016, shaking up the industry and growing into one of its biggest players.
In its 2017 annual general meeting, RIL informed shareholders that Akash Ambani was closely involved with a team of engineers in conceptualising and launching Jio’s flagship handset, the JioPhone.
He has also led Reliance Jio’s key acquisitions over the past few years and played a major role in making new technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain part of its arsenal.
The Brown University graduate’s latest appointment has again fuelled talk of succession at RIL. Murmurs were heard last year when Mukesh Ambani’s younger son Anant Ambani began to mark his presence in the family business.
Over the years, Anant Ambani has held several positions in the company. In 2021, he was appointed to the boards of two RIL companies—Reliance New Energy Solar and Reliance New Solar Energy—that have been set up to spearhead its billion-dollar bet on renewables.