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Nita Ambani on women empowerment, India’s bid for 2036 Olympics


International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Nita Ambani addresses the media after cricket was approved as an Olympic sport on Oct. 16, 2023.

Indranil Mukherjee | Afp | Getty Images

A philanthropist, a champion for women’s rights, and the founder of one of India’s largest foundations.

Nita Ambani is a woman who wears many hats – but the accolades don’t stop there.

The 59-year-old also juggles a slew of responsibilities in high-profile roles in organizations ranging from sports to arts. 

Dubbed the “first lady of Indian business,” she’s also the wife of Mukesh Ambani — Asia’s wealthiest man.

Ambani is best known for her role as chairperson of Reliance Foundation, a philanthropic organization owned by India’s richest company, Reliance Industries.

“The Reliance Foundation over the years has invested in many causes — education, child welfare, women empowerment and gender equality,” Ambani told CNBC’s Tanvir Gill on “The CNBC Conversation,” emphasizing on why it’s important for women to receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts. 

“It’s time we treat our girls and boys equally, whether in boardrooms or on playgrounds,” the mother-of-three said, adding that empowering women is something “very, very dear to my heart.”

Nita Mukesh Ambani from Asia's richest clan on philanthropy, leadership, sports and family

The foundation, which Ambani says is in “all states of India” and has helped 70 million people, focuses extensively on providing better health care to women, improving digital literacy, and educating them with skills to improve employability. 

In August, the foundation partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure that women in farm and non-farm jobs will receive an annual salary of at least $1,200 for the next three years. 

“I think a nation’s development depends on women empowerment, and the well-being of its children and the transformation through sports,” she said. “These three are key to a developed nation.” 

Women empowerment has been a thread that continues in my life.

But just building a foundation wasn’t enough for Ambani. Connecting with other women, young and old, was next on her list.

In 2021, she founded Her Circle, a digital app and social networking site that discusses a range of topics from lifestyle trends to women’s health, including promoting diversity of women’s appearances and body sizes.

In just two years, Her Circle has gained more than 500,000 Instagram followers and provides tools for women in need of counseling or financial consulting. 

“Women empowerment has been a thread that continues in my life,” Ambani said. “India will have the highest population of women in the next decade so it needs such platforms and apps for women to know they have equal playing fields.” 

Sports legacy in India?

Ambani is also the co-owner of five-time Indian Premier League winner Mumbai Indians and the founder of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre. 

“I’m a big believer in sports for girls and boys, and I feel children learn equally in playgrounds, as they do in classrooms,” she said. 

Over the years, Reliance Industries has invested heavily in India’s sports industry, and her husband Mukesh is currently the world’s richest sports teams owner

Mukesh Ambani has a net-worth of about $90 billion. He owns cricket teams in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, and had previously purchased a franchise in the Women’s Premier League. 

“Sports transcends boundaries,” Ambani told CNBC. She is a member of the International Olympics Committee, the first Indian woman to be elected.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and IOC member Nita Ambani attend the Indian Super League match between Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC in Mumbai on Oct. 8, 2023.

Indranil Mukherjee | Afp | Getty Images

Early in October, India announced it will bid to host the 2036 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“India will leave no stone unturned in the preparation for the successful organization of the Olympics in 2036 — this is the dream of the 140 crore (1.4 billion) Indians,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the opening ceremony of the International Olympic Committee session in Mumbai.

When asked if the country is ready to host the world’s largest sporting event, Ambani said: “We are absolutely ready … I am strongly rooting for it.”  

“It’s a win-win for both,” she added. “I hope in the near future, the youth of our country will be able to say proudly that we are hosting the Olympics in India.”

The South Asian nation is also currently hosting the Cricket World Cup after more than a decade. But unlike back in 2011, a global spotlight is on the country as it hosts all 48 matches for the first time.

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