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Leaning in: Isha Ambani beyond Reliance Retail

By Suveen Sinha
May 16, 2024 14:20 IST
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Isha Ambani means business.

Not only when she is doing business — she leads Reliance Retail — but also when she is not.

Isha Ambani

Photograph: ANI Photo

The latter was unmistakable on Wednesday, during her eight-minute 49-second video address on the occasion of “Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day India 2024”.

The Girls in ICT Day is hosted by the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, the International Telecommunications Union (South Asia), the Innovation Centre, Delhi, and other agencies of the United Nations.


In the address, Ambani, who, along with her two brothers, is at the core of Reliance Industries’ next generation of leaders and is a non-executive director on its board, exhorted young women to opt for STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and opt for technology as a career.

“A male-dominated STEM/ICT landscape, where women are under-represented, will rob India of its opportunity to rule the roost,” Ambani said.

Kavil Ramachandran, who is with the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business, says this is a good beginning.

“We hope this is a new phase for Isha Ambani.

"We hope there will be many more.

"We need industry leaders to be influencers,” he says.

Listening to Ambani, one is reminded of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a book that told women to embrace their ambitions and went on to spawn a movement.

“We must rise to the occasion, we must exert ourselves, and we must excel.

"Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant,” Ambani said.

She also said: “So, by denying leadership roles to women, we are denying ourselves the chance to realise our full potential.”

Her address comes at a time when several marquee names among India’s business families are in the throes of succession — not all of it


Adding to the uneven path are strains of acrimony and, in some cases, lack of a strong desire in the next generation to do the hard grind of running a business.

In the latter category, there are some daughters of business families.

Isha Ambani made news last year when Reliance Retail revealed the JioBook, a 4G enabled laptop, priced at Rs 16,499.

Her father, Mukesh, made mobile data a mass item and smartphones ubiquitous.

Reliance Retail has also been in the headlines for raising funds from global investors and touching impressive valuations.

“It is indeed an unfortunate scenario because women are no less suited to be leaders and change-makers than men.

"And yet a woman’s climb to the top is invariably a lot more difficult than a man’s rise.

"I personally believe that as leaders, women have an edge over men.

"Women have empathy and that automatically makes them better leaders.

"A woman leader, as she climbs up the ladder, will inevitably carry the team with her,” Ambani said in her video address.

This strikes a note beyond the rigmarole of running a business.

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Suveen Sinha
Source: source

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