Last year Mukesh, 50, and his younger brother Anil split the Reliance group, the company they inherited from their father, after a long simmering dispute for its control. Though Anil got a lot of the sexier new parts of the business mobile phones and financial services Mukesh hasn't sat around moping. As head of India's sprawling Reliance Industries conglomerate, he has his hand in oil and gas exploration, refining, textile manufacturing and, over the past year, supermarkets. It's the newest part of his business that could matter most. Thanks in part to government regulations that have so far kept big-box foreign chains such as Wal-Mart or Carrefour from retailing in India, Reliance Retail is winning a big chunk of India's booming organized shopping market before it has to face foreign competition. In doing so, Ambani is building a modern supply-chain infrastructure to connect India's farmers to his supermarkets and to speed fresh and frozen produce around the country something the impoverished nation has long lacked. Less successful has been Ambani's plans for a 27-story tower block in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) as his new family home. When news of the project broke many Indians were appalled at the conspicuous display of wealth; the Maharashtra state government now claims the deal for the land was illegal, although it's unclear if that will hold up Ambani's dream home.
By Simon Robinson
Next Rahul Dravid