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'Reliance split has win-win ending'

In a candid interview, Mukesh Ambani says: "My view is to give everyone the space to grow in his own way."

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 13:57 IST

Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, says the bitter feud with his younger brother Anil that lead to the split of the India's largest private sector corporate house has had a "win-win ending".

"When you see restructuring or separations in a family (firm), value has almost always been destroyed. This is the first case where value has been enhanced. In that way it has been a win-win ending," Ambani told Newsweek in an interview.

The magazine, in its detailed report on "India's Mr Big Idea" in the issue that hits stands on Monday, said the 49-year old business tycoon, "who was already the world's 38th richest person before the split, according to Forbes, is now considerably richer".

The break-up, finalised in January after a long-drawn out quarrel in public, left the elder brother in control of the larger (and largely petrochemical) share: Reliance Industries -- "a behemoth that has seen its fortunes soar since the de-merger".

In a rare candid comment on the fracas with his younger brother, Ambani said: "Fundamentally we had different approaches. My view is to give everyone the space to grow in his own way."

Called "the country's most influential businessman" by the international news magazine, Ambani is now aiming even higher.

"Since the break-up, Ambani, 49, has finalised plans to invest more than $11 billion over the next decade to build two new satellite cities outside creaking, overcrowded Mumbai and Delhi.

"Ambani's favourite scheme aims to revolutionise in one swoop two of India's largest but most backward sectors: farming and retail," said the report.

Commenting on the planned 'agrarian revolution', Mukesh Ambani said: "Reliance is involving itself in agriculture in a big way. This will help to create a second green revolution at a time when energy and agro are converging.

"Oil is now at $70 a barrel, [but it's] a finite asset. We need a fallback position. We are looking for more gas and oil but we are also trying to grow our own energy. We think this has the potential to change the world," he said.

"We will work with farmers to get them to increase their productivity and produce the right products of the right quality. This also requires a major investment in technology because there are minimum import standards [overseas].

"We are also creating something that is totally missing in India: an efficient distribution system, linked to supermarkets across the world. This will generate up to one million new jobs and make us the largest private-sector employer in India," said Ambani.

The report noted: "If his plan succeeds, he says, consumers will get fresher food at lower prices, rural incomes will soar, farmers will become active consumers, and Reliance will become 'a WalMart in India'. The agricultural export boom will bring India's farmers into the global economy, as IT has done for its college grads."

What drives him to be more and more ambitious? He quotes his late father, the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani: "To create something out of nothing."

India Inc has little doubt about his ability to deliver.

Nandan Nilekani, CEO of India's leading IT firm Infosys, said: "His genius, his strength is that he's enormously good at executing large projects. He is able to assemble large numbers of people, the project-management skills, the capital and then execute."