On Friday, Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani announced his resignation as director of Reliance Power and Reliance Infrastructure. This follows a SEBI order restraining him from associating with any listed company.
This seems to have effectively concluded Anil Ambani’s 16-year long business journey. And it is evidently not ending on a great note. As it turns out, Anil Ambani has failed to keep his business empire intact despite all the advantages he enjoyed.
When Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani started their different journeys
Dhirubhai Ambani passed away in 2002, without making a will. Later, their mother Kokilaben Ambani brokered a truce between the two brothers and the family business was partitioned between the two brothers.
Mukesh Ambani, the elder brother, got control of the oil, gas, petrochemicals, refining and manufacturing arms of the business. His younger brother got control of electricity, telecoms, and financial services.
The two brothers however went through very different phases in their business lives.
There was a time when Anil Ambani was richer than Mukesh Ambani
Believe it or not, in 2006, Anil Ambani’s net worth was estimated to be Rs 550 crore more than that of his elder brother, Mukesh Ambani. It was only a year after late Dhirubhai Ambani’s business was split between the two brothers.
Anil Ambani was then the third-richest Indian and stood next only to steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and Azim Premji.
Mukesh overtook Anil
Still, Anil Ambani remained a celebrated billionaire for quite some time. In 2008, he was the sixth-richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $42 billion.
In 2008, Anil Ambani was amongst the richest men in the world. Yet, 12 years later, he claimed that he had no real net worth.
His business empire fell into a complicated web of lawsuits, failed deals, and mismanagement of companies. It was claimed that Anil Ambani-led RCom (Reliance Communication) couldn’t keep up with a fast-changing telecom industry. Yet, attempts to take the company forward led to more loans and price wars. Ultimately, RCom had to file for bankruptcy.
Make no mistake, RCom was quite a successful venture when it started. And Anil Ambani, therefore, got a lucrative business to start his journey. Launched in 2002 as telecommunication arm of Reliance Industries. The company had initial success as there was an untapped market base but slowly the fortunes of the company began to slip.
On the other hand, Mukesh Ambani led the highly lucrative oil and gas business to great heights. He also understood the importance of data amidst changing business conditions in the world and managed to launch Jio, a game-changer in the country’s telecom industry.
And even apart from getting to lead RCom, Anil Ambani exerted a lot of influence. He is popular with the media. He was seen as a flamboyant businessman and had even got a seat in the Rajya Sabha from which he later resigned. In fact, Anil has had unparalleled success in raising capital from global markets for Reliance. He knows the world’s biggest international financiers by their first names and is the telegenic face of the company.
Yet, his influence couldn’t help him keep his business empire strong. The present-day businesses are changing. You need constant innovation, good vision, and an ability to thrive in cut-throat competition if you want your business to prosper. Anil Ambani’s business empire however seems to have failed to keep pace with changing business conditions.
In fact, in 2020, Anil Ambani said in a London court filing, “My net worth is zero after taking into account my liabilities. In summary, I do not hold any meaningful assets which can be liquidated for the purposes of these proceedings.” So, you can imagine the kind of slide Anil Ambani’s business empire has witnessed.
Today, Mukesh Ambani is amongst the richest Asians. In 2019, he emerged as the only Asian in the world’s top 10 richest people list. Anil Ambani’s business empire has clearly got derailed even though he has an inherent advantage, to begin with.