Nita Ambani   

By Mrinalini Sundar
Name Nita Ambani
Occupation Philanthropist and founder of Reliance Foundation
Category Business
Country of Residence India

Why we felt she needed to be included in this list: She is one of the founders and is the manager of the Reliance Foundation, a philanthropic initiative that has touched the lives of 29 million people across the country. It is the top community social responsibility spender in India.

Nita Ambani was a professional dancer when, during a performance, Dhirubhai Ambani noticed her and decided he would ask her to be his daughter-in-law. Now married to Mukesh Ambani, a business magnate, the chairman, managing director, and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Limited, also known as Asia’s richest man, Nita’s committed to making the world a better place.

The Ambani matriarch chairs the Reliance Foundation, Reliance Industries’ charitable arm. The foundation promotes sustainable growth in India through rural transformation, education, health, urban renewal, and arts, culture and heritage. The top corporate social responsibility spender in India, Reliance Foundation has touched the lives of 29 million people across the country in more than 18,000 villages and 200 urban locations.

Ambani’s first foray into community work was in 1997 when she was involved in building a company township for the employees of Reliance’s Jamnagar refinery. The only woman on site (and often addressed as sir), she helped establish a tree-lined, environmentally-friendly colony that housed more than 17,000 residents and today has one of the largest orchards with nearly 100,000 mango trees and is home to a variety of birds.

Let us wholeheartedly accept that women, just like men, have the potential to significantly contribute to the economic progress and social welfare of the nation. This calls for a paradigm shift in our institutional and individual mindsets. That is why I would like to be involved in moulding the next generation of Indians through my school and other education initiatives.

Hindustan Times

The foundation’s Bharat-India Jodo is a program for marginal farmers and the foundation also offers service programs that bring technical expertise to 1,400 farming and fishing villages. They took over the development of Goda Park in Nashik and in partnership with NASSCOM they’ve created a social media lab for Mumbai Police to help involve residents and improve safety and security. The foundation also sponsors events celebrating and continuing the cultural heritage of India and they often work with other philanthropies and NGOs on collaborative initiatives.

The foundation sponsors the Drishti program, which provides Braille newspapers for the blind, India’s largest cornea transplant program, and they developed the Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai.

As part of her 11-hour, six days a week schedule, Ambani visits the foundation hospital twice a week. The hospital got a makeover under her supervision in 2014 and she personally interviewed all 400 of the nursing staff. The aim of the hospital is to deliver top-notch health care services, not reserved for the affluent, and it is one of the most prestigious aspects of the foundation.

Ambani’s first love was teaching and she continued teaching for a few years after marriage, eventually going on to establish the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, which is ranked amongst one of the city’s and the country’s best schools. The foundation grants scholarships under the Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarhsip Program and supports 13 schools, including the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, and establishes universities in partnership with the London School of Economics.

I am not really working for results, I am just driven by the job at hand. I think if you are passionate about what you do, it brings out your best. If something doesn’t excite me, I can’t put in my best.

Times of India

Ambani is also the co-owner of the Indian Premier League team the Mumbai Indians and she led the Education and Sports for All initiative as part of the Mumbai Indians’ way of giving back to society. ESA has reached over 100,000 underprivileged children and raised awareness for education. In 2016, she became the first Indian woman member of the International Olympic Committee.

The foundation has earned numerous awards and in 2017, Ambani received the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award from the president of India, on behalf of Reliance Foundation as its chairperson for her initiatives on grassroot sports. She was also named Best Corporate Supporter of Indian Sports by the Times of India.

The first lady of Indian business, as she is popularly known, Ambani dons several caps and touches upon the lives of so many people across the country.

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Mrinalini Sundar

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