The many shades of Nita Ambani, the first lady of Indian business

The many shades of Nita Ambani, the first lady of Indian business
  • On March 31, businesswoman Nita Ambani inaugurated her latest project, the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), a first-of-its-kind space for promoting art and culture in India.
  • Over the years, Nita Ambani has helmed several noteworthy projects that had an indelible impact on Indian society, starting with the Jamnagar Township Project in 1997.
  • She was the first South Asian to be honoured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for Reliance Foundations’ philanthropic efforts.
On March 31, 2023, the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) was inaugurated in the presence of some of the world’s biggest stars, fashion icons and the who’s who of Bollywood.

Touted as a first-of-its-kind, multi-disciplinary cultural space in the sphere of arts, NMACC is the brainchild of Nita Ambani, the first lady of Indian business.

An alumnus of the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics, Nita Ambani is a professional Bharatnatyam dancer, philanthropist, and businesswoman. Over the years, she’s helmed several projects, carving an identity for herself that goes beyond being the wife of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

A woman of many firsts

The elder of two sisters, Nita Ambani graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce before pursuing a career as a school teacher. It was during this time that she met Mukesh Ambani, the eldest son of Indian businessman Dhirubhai Ambani. They were married in 1985, and have three children — twins Isha and Akash Ambani, and Anant Ambani.


Through the years, Nita Ambani has founded various organisations and currently serves as a director of Reliance Industries. She’s also won several accolades for her philanthropic efforts, including the 'Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award 2017' from the President of India.

In 2017, Nita Ambani was also honoured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for Reliance Foundations’ philanthropic efforts. She was the first South Asian to be honoured by the Met in this regard.

Prior to this, in 2016, Nita Ambani became the first Indian woman to be elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee. In 2022, she was also named the most powerful businesswoman in Asia by Forbes magazine.

Where it all began - the 1997 Jamnagar Township Project

Nita Ambani’s philanthropic and entrepreneurial journey started with the Jamnagar Township Project in 1997, which she refers to as the turning point in her career.

In 1997, a company township for the employees of Reliance’s refinery was constructed at Jamnagar. At the time, Ambani’s twins were only 5, and her youngest, Anant, was just 2, but she still took over the project.

25 years later, in 2022, Nita Ambani topped the list of Fortune India's Most Powerful Women and talked about being the only woman working alongside 75,000 men at Jamnagar.

"We worked out of tin sheds in the scorching heat and dust, with temperatures as high as 42 Celsius and no trees to provide relief. The region received less than 400 cm of rain and groundwater was scarce. So, I was literally in charge of creating an oasis in an arid land…I was mistakenly referred to as 'sir' many times," shared Ambani with Fortune India.

Notable projects founded by Nita Ambani

Jamnagar was just the start. In 2003 she established the Dhirubhai Ambani International School. She’s currently the chairperson of the school. The school was ranked as the best international school in India for ten consecutive years, from 2013 to 2021, by Education World. In 2019, it also ranked 10th on the Global Top 50 IB Schools list by UK’s Education Advisers.

In 2010, along with her husband, Nita Ambani started the Reliance Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to promote sustainable growth in India. Today, it’s one of the country’s largest non-profit foundations working across multiple sectors — rural transformation, education, health, arts, culture and heritage, and others.

In the last two decades, the Reliance Foundation has been awarded several honours, including the internationally acclaimed “Golden Peacock Award” and the Porter Prize in 2015.

In 2010, she also launched the Education and Sports for All (ESA) initiative to provide quality education and sporting opportunities to children across India. ESA runs various solo and associated programmes, provides full-time residential football scholarships, and aids school-based basketball programmes all over India, among other ventures.

She’s the co-owner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) team, Mumbai Indians which won the title in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020. And she launched Her Circle, a digital platform for women complete with its own discussion panels and social networking app, on International Women’s Day in 2022.

She’s also the co-chair of the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI), along with chairperson, actor Priyanka Chopra. MAMI is the public trust responsible for organising the annual international film festival in Mumbai, the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

Her latest project, NMACC, includes a 2,000 seating capacity grand theatre, a four-storey art house and a Pavilion – a museum-like convertible area of 52,627 sq. ft for art shows and exhibitions, and a studio theatre.


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