The future of its biggest company is important for India itself.
India Inc’s business calendar has only one contender to rival Berkshire Hathaway’s famous shareholder gathering.
The subcontinent’s equivalent of that “Woodstock for capitalists” is the annual general meeting of Reliance Industries.
The company’s founder, Dhirubhai Ambani, an upstart entrepreneur from Gujarat, was also an outsider with a nose for opportunities.
He built India’s largest company from a humble trading and textiles firm into a vast conglomerate.
It has continued to expand after his death under the leadership of his son Mukesh Ambani and today encompasses petrochemicals, refining, telecoms, a shopping app and retail stores—among other things.
The importance of the resulting entity to India is impossible to overstate.
With a market value of $206bn, the firm’s revenues are the equivalent of 3% of the country’s GDP.
Among India’s largest 500 public companies, it is responsible for 6% of sales and profits, 7% of total capitalisation and a staggering 18% of capital investment.
Jio, the telecoms division, provides service to 410m Indians, and is the latest in a series of massive, stomach-churning capital-intensive bets that have paid off over the years.
The retail operations are by far the largest in India, encompassing 15,000 shops.
Its refinery and petrochemicals operation in the north-west of the country is among the biggest in the world.
In short, any change at Reliance affects India as a whole—and it appears that change may well be on the way.
The rumour mill has been abuzz because this year the annual meeting, usually held in June or July in Mumbai, has yet to be scheduled.
Mr Ambani seems to have largely withdrawn from public appearances.
The company says he is spending time in Jamnagar, the site of the company’s massive oil refinery.
India’s gossipy business world, where no figure receives more attention, is alight with talk that he may be suffering from health problems.
The company says he is well and continues to attend public functions within the restrictions of a pandemic.
On June 28th the company said that Mr Ambani would step aside from the chairmanship of Jio Infocomm, a subsidiary of the telecoms arm, in favour of his 30-year-old son, Akash.
The next day reports emerged that Akash’s twin sister, Isha, would soon head Reliance’s retail operations.
And on July 3rd the Hindu Business Line, a newspaper, said that Mr Ambani’s wife, Nita, already a director of Reliance, was favoured by some on the board to become a vice-chairman of the company.
Another son, Anant, is also said to be positioned to take over running part of its energy operations.