Who are the Ambanis, the ultra-wealthy Indian family that got Rihanna to come out of retirement to play a wedding party?

Connie Queline

Who are the Ambanis, the ultra-wealthy Indian family that got Rihanna to come out of retirement to play a wedding party?

The son of India’s richest man is getting married this summer. But the wedding festivities actually began last week in New Delhi at a decadent venue in Gujarat, a state in western India—and the exorbitant prices of all the fêting has sent shockwaves across the globe. For the happy couple, the fun is only just the beginning.

But who is the Ambani family, and how did they manage to gather some of the world’s most powerful and influential people—from hedge-fund kingpins to celebrity music artists—to a pre-wedding party? 

It all starts with the groom’s father, billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, who is currently the richest person in India and the ninth-richest man in the world. Forbes pegs his net worth at just under $118 billion.

Ambani, 66, is chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, a Mumbai-based conglomerate with business in everything from retail, natural gas, and petrochemicals to telecommunications, textiles, and entertainment. It is the largest private-sector company in India, and No. 88 on the Fortune Global 500. 

Ambani’s father, Dhirubhai—the groom-to-be’s grandfather—was a yarn trader who founded Reliance in 1958 as a commodity-trading venture firm. Those commodities were mostly spices and polyester yarn. In 1966, Dhirubhai narrowed his focus primarily on polyester, incorporating Reliance Industries Private Limited as a family-operated textile manufacturer in the western state of Maharashtra, India. 

Dhirubhai died in 2002, leaving Mukesh and his brother Anil at the reins; Mukesh ultimately wrested majority control. As of last year, Reliance operates over 230 subsidiaries. 

This week’s actual festivities were for Anant Ambani, 29, Mukesh’s youngest son, who is set to marry his long-term girlfriend Radhika Merchant. Merchant herself comes from serious money: Her father,  Viren Merchant, is CEO of Encore Healthcare Private Limited, a pharmaceutical giant in India. 

Reliance remains a family business, and each of Mukesh’s three children has control of a different industry, per Forbes. They officially joined the board last year, and eldest son Akash leads its telecom and broadband arm. Isha, Akash’s twin sister, heads retail and financial services, and Anant, the groom-to-be, heads up energy. 

The elder Ambani’s connections resulted in a guest list for the three-day event totaling in over 1,200 people, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Disney CEO Bob Iger (who was invited but didn’t attend), former first daughter Ivanka Trump and her real-estate magnate husband Jared Kushner, A-list Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan, and even pop star Rihanna, who came out of retirement to perform for the party, earning a rumored $6 million payout.

As critics have pointed out, the flashiness of the party only underscore the rampant inequality plaguing India, where the richest 1% own over 40% of the country’s total wealth. 

According to the New York Times, the party was just as much a destination for hobnobbing and networking as it was for celebration. “For instance, Nita Ambani, Mukesh Ambani’s wife, is reportedly poised to become board chairwoman of the company created by a recent merger of Reliance with Walt Disney’s Indian media assets,” Suhasini Raj reported. 

Too bad Iger didn’t show up—but luckily, the wedding is still a few months away. 

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