Magazine article Newsweek International

Interview: 'Something out of Nothing'; India's Leading Industrialist on His Plans for a Nation, and a Company, on the Rise

Magazine article Newsweek International

Interview: 'Something out of Nothing'; India's Leading Industrialist on His Plans for a Nation, and a Company, on the Rise

Article excerpt

Byline: Sudip Mazumdar

Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, aims to reinvent his petrochemical giant as a retail powerhouse, catering to India's booming consumer class. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Sudip Mazumdar and Ron Moreau about India, Reliance, and the family feud that recently broke the conglomerate apart. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: You say India's competitive advantages are globalization, democracy, the ability to adapt to technology, and demography. Starting with democracy, doesn't it slow growth?

Sure, but increased aspirations are also driving growth. Politicians used to tell me: "We sell dreams to people that we knew we'd never be able to fulfill." Today, the mind-set of these politicians has changed. They genuinely believe we have an opportunity to substantially alleviate poverty by 2030.

How does technology fit in?

We are using new technologies in meaningful ways. To build our new refinery in 60 percent of the time it took to build our first, we are training 20,000 people in a new generation of welding technology in six months. This is where demographics comes in. We have 650 million people who are below their early 30s, while the U.S. and Europe face a shortage of skilled workers. A billion people used to mean lots of problems. Today I see a billion people as a billion potential consumers, an opportunity to generate value for them and to make a return for myself.

How do you motivate poor farmers to join your new farm-to-retail network? …

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