Reliance Foundation, India’s foremost philanthropic organization is synonymous with the name of Nita Ambani, who is counted amongst the most powerful and inspirational women in the country. Right from donning the hats of a passionate educationist, relentless philanthropist and the sharp entrepreneur, Nita Ambani has always been determined to use her power and privilege for the greater good of mankind. What makes her such a revered persona is her humble beginnings in a middle-class household which instilled a radical sense of empathy for those less fortunate and a value system that is rooted in giving back to society. This blog covers the journey of the force of nature that is Nita Ambani and her story from a school teacher and classical dancer to one of the most influential businesswomen in Asia.
“It’s not what you possess but what you determine to do with what you have that determines your truth.”
Nita Ambani was born in the suburbs of Mumbai to a middle-class Gujrati Family. She was the daughter of Ravindra Bhai Dalal, a senior executive at Birla and Purnima Dalal. Growing up, she was deeply interested in classical dance forms and aspired to make a career as a classical dancer. She was a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and would deliver multiple stage performances, Nita Ambani completed her graduation from Narsee Monjee College Of Commerce and Economics and pursued a career in teaching whilst performing Bharatnatyam extensively.
It is stated that Nita crossed paths with the Ambani family during one such dance performance, when Dhirubhai Ambani caught sight of a vibrant Nita and approached her with a marriage proposal for his son, Mukesh Ambani. It was an arrange marriage condition but soon, love and friendship blossomed between the two, however, Nita Ambani agreed to marry him under the condition that she would continue her job as a teacher. Despite getting married off to a billionaire, Nita Ambani remained grounded owing to her modest upbringing. For a very long time, she stayed away from the limelight and was preoccupied in raising her 3 children – Akash, Isha and Anant.
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Eventually, Nita Ambani had to give up teaching, however, she couldn’t suppress her passion for long. When Mukesh Ambani was involved in setting up pipelines in Patalganga, she insisted that they set up schools in the nearby rural areas. Eventually, this led to building more schools in Jamnagar. While working on these projects, she realized how much education and teaching meant to her. She envisioned affordable education to reach every part of India. This led to the establishment of Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation school in 2003, of which she is the chairperson.
Reliance Foundation is the charity arm of Reliance Industries Ltd which Nita Ambani built on her own. She led the foundation’s endeavours into areas like rural and urban transformation, education, healthcare, art and culture. Reliance Foundation, under her chairmanship, has undertaken many initiatives like cornea transplants, publishing of a Hindi newspaper in Braille, to name a few.
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Becoming a Powerful Businesswoman!
Nita Ambani made her debut as a businesswoman after being nominated to the board of East India Hotels, operator of the Oberoi chain of hotels. This appointment proved to be a precursor for greater things; she then went on to be the first female board member of Reliance Industries Ltd.
One of her biggest business undertakings was the co-ownership of the IPL cricket team, Mumbai Indians. In one of her interviews she admitted that for the longest time, she loved cricket and aimed to study the game as well as she could. Her dedication to her team transformed Mumbai Indians into the powerhouses of the Indian Premier League. Mumbai Indians won the title in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019. She also founded the Football Sports Development Limited with an aim of developing sports in the country by involving the masses. She is widely acknowledged for making a huge impact in the realm of grassroots sports.
Some of her other notable works include setting up the Education For All (EFA) program, collaboration with the National Association for Blinds and founding Project Drishti which conducted 5000 keratoplasties free of cost, collaboration with Sir Hurkisondas Nurrotumdas Hospital with an aim to restructure, restore and innovate the hospital infrastructure and her partnership with UNAIDS.
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Awards and Accolades
Nita Ambani with her tireless approach towards bringing a spotlight on sports and equal education in India has managed to add quite a few feathers to her hat. Some of them include being awarded the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award 2017 from the President of India. She was also awarded the Best corporate supporter of Sports, given by the Times of India. Nita Ambani also made it to the prestigious Forbes list of the most influential women Business Leaders Awards.
“In a country where billionaire wives tend to remain in the shadow of their husbands, Nita’s rising profile in the Reliance empire is unusual and earns her a debut spot.” – Forbes on Nita Ambani
She was also featured in the 50 high and mighty list by India Today. Another great news is that Nita Ambani was recently nominated to the International Olympic Committee.
“Wealth and power don’t go together. Power cannot be brokered. To me, power is responsibility. And I derive it from my family, my work, my passion and my very middle-class values.”
Of all the powerful and influential women who have always emphasised on giving back to society, Nita Ambani is at the forefront. From being a school teacher to the wealthiest woman in India, she has truly seen the world and works to make it a brighter place. Within a short span, she emerged as a beacon of inspiration for women across India. For more such informative and interesting content on the powerful personalities of India as well as the world, stay tuned to Leverage Edu and follow us on LinkedIn, Youtube, Facebook, Quora, and Instagram!