As much as Mukesh Ambani loves saying data is the new oil, actual oil—the dirty, earth-warming kind—still forms the very core of his company, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). Call it an oil-to-telecom-to-retail conglomerate all you like, but crude refining and petrochemicals accounted for over 65% of RIL’s revenue and 60% of its Ebitda Ebitda Ebitda Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation. for the year ended March 2020.

Ambani, RIL’s chairman and managing director, knows all too well that oil’s best days are behind it. Covid-19 dealt it a body blow that’ll be difficult to recover from. And with accelerated efforts to reduce carbon emissions around the world, oil consumption could fall by 50-80% by 2050, according to British oil and gas major BP’s Energy Outlook Energy Outlook BP Energy Outlook 2020 Edition Read more 2020 report.

There’s perhaps no stronger indicator of Big Oil’s waning fortunes than American oil major Exxon Mobil Corp being removed removed Bloomberg Is Big Oil Still a Big Deal? Read more from the Dow Jones Industrial Average index in August—after a 92-year run.

Small wonder, then, that Ambani wants RIL to be a digital and retail company first. He has managed to convince a host of marquee investors–including internet giants Google and Facebook–to pump over $20 billion $20 billion Bloomberg After $20 Billion Jio Frenzy, Ambani Seeks Money for Retail Read more into RIL’s digital services business and $5.1 billion $5.1 billion Bloomberg Abu Dhabi’s ADIA to Invest $750 Million in Mukesh Ambani’s Retail Unit Read more into its retail arm.

However, the world’s sixth-richest person also wants to remake his energy business. One that made it possible for RIL to become the country’s largest retailer, the number one telecom company, and the first Indian firm to cross $200 billion in market capitalisation.

Big bucks

RIL’s revenue for the year ended March 2020 grew 5.4% to Rs 6,59,205 crore ($90 billion) and net profit rose 11% to Rs 44,324 crore ($6 billion).

“We will build an optimal mix of reliable, clean and affordable energy with hydrogen, wind, solar, fuel cells and battery,” Ambani said at RIL’s annual general meeting on 15 July.


Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

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