The right hand of billionaire Mukesh Ambani, Manoj Modi is viewed by many insiders and others in India’s business world as the right hand of. He is reserved and mostly invisible to the public.
Manoj Modi has quietly become one of the most powerful forces behind the corporate empire of Asia’s richest man. He is not fond of flashy titles and doesn’t want to be known, only few outside India know his name, and in the halls of Reliance Industries Ltd.,
He has played a prominent role during negotiations for a $5.7 billion deal with Facebook Inc. in April.He has always backed Ambani and his children as they hashed out an agreement with the social networking giant. Sources close to the matter said.
Ambani, 63, is making things conducive to shift his extensive company’s focus from petrochemicals to internet technologies. Modi is seen as a particularly influential voice. Facebook’s investment in the group’s Jio Platforms was followed by similar deals from a slew of private-equity funds, injecting $13 billion into the business and placing it firmly on Silicon Valley’s radar.
The sixty-something, very small Modi — who isn’t related to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — rarely gives interviews and there’s little in the public realm about his private life. Yet he illustrates how lesser known personalities in India with long-running ties to corporate dynasties can have an out sized impact.
“It’s not a company that advertises its organizational structure but the industry knows that Ambani and Modi are a strongly-bonded team — and together drive deal negotiation and relentless execution to the last level of detail,” said Vani Kola, managing director of venture capital firm, Kalaari Capital Partners.
Manoj Modi is a director at Reliance Retail Ltd. and the group’s telecom carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. At Kola’s conference, he downplayed his skills. “I don’t really negotiate,” he said. “I don’t understand strategy,” he went on. “In fact, people internally know that I don’t even have a vision.” He described his role, saying, “I deal with our internal people, coaching them, mentoring them and guiding them on how something can be done.”
He said,”Our principle at Reliance is very simple: Unless everyone makes money while working with us, you cannot have a sustainable business.”
Modi has a reputation for driving hard bargains. When dealing with startups, he often controls negotiations from behind the scenes by instructing executives how far to push, making the most out of the deal fruitful.
Many people who worked with Modi say that, Modi has a big say in every deal and often a meeting with him signals the final stamp of approval,be it mega investment, acquisition of smaller firms, build expertise in newer technologies, artificial intelligence or block chain
“He derives his power in the organization not just because of his loyalty, but because of his very astute, smart and able negotiator skills for Reliance Industries,” G. R. Gopinath, founder of budget carrier Air Deccan.
“Significantly, though without formal education from Ivy League universities, he has a very sharp mind and a rare insight and native genius to grasp modern technology in the Indian context.”
Modi is “ruthlessly efficient” and manages to get the best possible deal for Reliance in mergers and acquisitions.
Modi is one of the few who have been with the company since the 1980s when Ambani’s late father was building the oil-and-petrochemicals giant. A few years earlier, Manoj Harjivandas Modi and Ambani had studied at what was then called the University Department of Chemical Technology in Mumbai and become fast friends.
Worked with three generations
Modi was given a chance to work with three generations of the Ambani dynasty: The late patriarch Dhirubhai, then Mukesh and his wife Nita, and now his children Isha and Akash, who are playing more prominent roles on deals like Facebook.
Over the years Modi became known as the execution man, overseeing large projects. He broke new ground by managing Reliance’s retail reach to smaller cities and expanded it to India’s largest retailer. But it was with the path breaking telecom service that Ambani built up that Modi came into his own.
His negotiating skills were very visible when Reliance Jio raced to launch its wireless services in 2016 and built its fiber optic cable network.
Among the skills Modi has honed is working with senior executives at Reliance, like Anshuman Thakur, head of strategy at Reliance Jio Infocomm and a long time banker, who plays a key role on deals and regularly briefs the press.