Mukesh Ambani’s riches are growing overnight, and so is his online cult.
In the year 2020, not only has Reliance Industries’ bank account swelled because of its deals with Facebook, Google and Intel among others, the senior Ambani’s fan following on Instagram also seems to be on a sudden rise. Dozens of fan accounts religiously share ‘rare pics’, family photos, and #TBTs (throw-back-to) posts of Asia’s and India’s richest man alive.
As businesses reeled under a pandemic-hit economy, Mukesh Ambani and Jio platforms brokered deals running into billions of dollars. With a net worth of $75.1 billion, Ambani now sits at number five on Forbes’ list of world’s richest men.
It is not just the elder Ambani brother who is amassing a social media fanbase, his family members are getting their fair share of fan accounts too — wife and philanthropist Nita Ambani, children Akash, Isha and Anant Ambani, and even their spouses. What Isha Ambani wore to events has as many dedicated fan posts as glimpses inside the elusive Antilia. Then there are posts about how Mukesh Ambani is using his gargantuan wealth to support a Covid-hit India.
Even Ratan Tata, who joined Instagram last year, has gained over a million followers — most of them millennials. It is a paradigm shift in India, which worships only cricketers and movie stars. Now, we have a fandom for home-grown business billionaires.
Social media presence
Mukesh Ambani is not officially on social media sites, but his absence is not felt. Imposter Twitter accounts of the tycoon often spread fake news that many fall for. But on Instagram, an informal but suspiciously well-planned machinery keeps you up-to-date with what’s going on in his and his family’s life.
The Ambani khandaan has many ‘official’ accounts run by ‘fans’, which tag each other’s accounts dutifully in almost every post. These are no small pages. While a page dedicated to Isha Ambani (@isha.ambanii) has about 1,17,000 followers, the ones dedicated to Shloka Mehta (@shloka_mehta_official), who married to Akash, and Radhika Merchant (@radhika_merchant_official) — who is often spotted with the youngest Ambani son, Anant — have about 78,000 and 28,000 followers, respectively.
One account dedicated to the patriarch of the family (@mukeshambaniofficial) boasts of 1,24,000 followers. Among the many accounts for Nita Ambani, nitaambani9 is probably the most popular with 55,000 followers.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more accounts are dedicated to the couples in the family (Akash and Shloka), some to the entire family, and some are just private accounts — the list is endless.
Strangely, the caption game of these pages isn’t too strong — they either have no captions or something extremely bland, offering no fangirling moments that one is used to with a typical fan page.
The comments section tells a sad tale, though. On Mukesh Ambani’s fan pages, for instance, people post their CVs, write about losing their jobs amid the pandemic and ask Ambani to give them a chance. These users are likely unaware of the fact that the accounts aren’t really run by the businessman. On the contrary, there are some who jokingly ask Ambani to buy them a Mustang or a Mercedes.
Some dedicated fans also post information about Ambani’s philanthropic endeavours. They boast about how the man gave Rs 500 crore to PM Cares and Rs 5 crore to the Maharashtra government.
Glimpse into Ambani’s world
These pages will surely fill your voyeuristic urge to peep into the life of the rich and famous. You’ll find snippets from the recent weddings in the Ambani family, portraits of all members, some glimpses of Ambani’s residence Antilia, videos from some or the other charity event, childhood pictures from school picnics, and, of course, glimpses from khandaani puja. I bet this is what Yash Rai Chand’s (Amitabh Bachchan’s character from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…) family account would look like on Instagram.
Full of anushasan, parampara and pratishtha (discipline, tradition, reputation), these accounts don’t offer a glimpse into the life of an uber-rich family, but a uber-happy, sanskari family that indulges in no vices and remains rooted in Indian traditions. It’s something Indians will respect much more than looking at pictures of the Ambani boys living the life, spending their riches.
The posts also show how tight-knit the who’s who are in India. You’ll also find the family mingling with Shah Rukh Khan in one picture, and with Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray in the next, and throwback pictures of Mukesh Ambani with PM Narendra Modi and former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Businessmen who were widely-known names but didn’t really have people going gaga over them earlier, now enjoy letting social media users into their lives in a relaxed, laid-back fashion. It allows them to add certain dimensions to their personality that go beyond the characteristics of an astute businessman.
For instance, social media has allowed us to discover Elon Musk’s eccentric wit, and let us into Ratan Tara’s warm life whose debut on Instagram, as they say, broke the internet.
But the cult around Ambani has evolved over time, and I’d argue that the family enjoys a more positive embrace from Indians in the post-Jio world.
When brand loyalty was still a thing, there was a level of trust that products by Tata, which were seen as Reliance’s fiercest competitor, enjoyed that RIL honestly never did. It was widely known that customers can blindly trust Tata’s products for durability, and that they looked at anything Reliance had to offer with eyes half-closed.
Jio changed this.
People online and on social media appreciate the cheap data and phone rates that Jio has afforded them, making the internet a second home, and democratising access to it. Post Jio, many look at Ambani as a game-changer who is using his means to create a better world and put India on the map.
Even as wealth inequality grows, Ambani is soon becoming the successor to Ratan Tata as the Bruce Wayne of our Gotham. Indians love a home-grown rich patriot with no visible vice.
I do hope these fan pages can give us a closer look into Ambani’s life. More specifically, inside his house; I really want the world’s second-most expensive private residence to be at least magnificent on the inside. From the outside, as was the joke in our college just across the street from Antilia and what a comedian said, it looks like a huge sex toy, or a badly designed office building people have chosen to call home.
Meanwhile, like, share and subscribe because Ambani’s growing social media following is going nowhere.
Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.