Reliance Industries (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani started with a warning – “What has brought us here will not take us to the future.” He was concerned that Reliance’s mainstay business of crude oil refining and petrochemicals could lose sheen amid push for renewable energy, electric mobility and growing global trade tensions.

So what should RIL do? About a year back, in 2011, Ambani’s daughter Isha had sowed the seed of a new business, though. Home from Yale University for a holiday, Isha decried poor broadband speeds in India. Until then, even though Ambani had already planned entering telecom by acquiring Infotel Broadband Ltd in 2010, his mind hadn’t quite zeroed in on the huge digital and telecom opportunity due to pent-up demand. Isha’s statements connected the dots.

while Reliance Retail quadrupled its footprint from 2,621 stores to 11,784 stores, it also created an ideal launchpad for an ambitious e-commerce platform, Jio Mart, launched in 200 cities on May 23.

Ambani concluded ‘Data is the New Oil’. Thus began the relentless transformation of RIL that continues till date. The company took four years to build the digital infrastructure to launch Reliance Jio in September 2016. Today, it’s the country’s largest network with 387 million 4G subscribers. It was in the process of building Jio that Ambani understood how modern retail is intertwined with technology, a realisation that generated an idea to build India’s very own Amazon/Alibaba around Reliance Retail.

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