In Mumbai, Fink, who has stirred controversy in corporate America due to his stance on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues, toured the expansive Jio Campus in Navi Mumbai and RIL’s high-end retail hub in the Bandra Kurla Complex. He also had discussions with senior leadership.
This visit marks Fink’s second trip to India in recent times, and the first since the announcement of their asset management joint venture (JV) by Jio Financial Services and BlackRock in July. This initiative aims to launch a digital-first asset management platform to cater to the growing investor base in India. Each partner pledged investments of up to $150 million in this 50:50 JV.
At RIL’s 46th annual general meeting in August, Fink highlighted BlackRock’s significant presence as a non-Indian investor in India and acknowledged India’s role in the forefront of global digital transformation. This, in part, is due to the impressive digital and consumer ecosystem established by Reliance and Jio, unmatched elsewhere in the world, he said.
Larry Fink is the world’s largest money manager
Larry Fink is in his second attempt to engage the Indian retail investor. He sold his stake in the previous alliance with the Hemendra Kothari-led DSP Group in 2018. There were discussions about a potential joint venture with the HDFC Group afterward, but it didn’t materialize.
BlackRock, headquartered in New York, already maintains a substantial local presence with 2,400 employees covering investing, operations, analytics, and corporate functions. Approximately 15% of BlackRock’s $422 billion in Asian assets are invested in India. It manages about $13 billion in direct Indian exposure for global clients.
The number of retail investors has surged since the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching 36 million as household savings are institutionalized. In this context, RIL may focus on passive investments to set itself apart.
Mails sent to BlackRock’s global spokesperson on Friday received no response by the time of publication. Reliance Industries declined to comment.
Sources indicated that Fink’s recent visit primarily aimed at strategizing and building on previously announced plans, as the operational team is already in place to run the business.
BlackRock’s digital platform, Aladdin – the Asset, Liability, and Debt and Derivative Investment Network – aligns with Ambani’s agenda to employ data and technology for transforming Indian financial markets.
The timing of the visit, just before the COP28 summit in Dubai next month, carries significance. Both Reliance and BlackRock have been advocating for the clean energy agenda, with Ambani announcing in 2021 that all Reliance businesses will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.
Larry Fink is leading Wall Street’s CEO cohort to the COP28 talks this year after missing last year’s summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
The notable presence of major financial institutions at this finance-centric COP summit is partly due to its hosting by Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, the UAE’s largest oil firm, under the leadership of CEO Sultan Al Jaber, who has spoken about a “inevitable” phase-down of fossil fuels but hasn’t set a clear date for total phase-out.
Fink’s annual letter to shareholders holds significant prestige, but he has faced criticism at home, with Republicans labeling BlackRock’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts as “woke capitalism,” while progressives accuse the company of “greenwashing,” or promoting practices that may not be as environmentally responsible as they seem.
In April of the previous year, BlackRock and Mubadala invested Rs 4,000 crore in Tata Power’s renewable division, and there is speculation that Fink may support Mukesh Ambani’s ambitious new energy ventures.
Fink’s recent travels have taken him to Asia. Recently he was in Tokyo, where he hosted major investors, drawing parallels to the global interest in Japan’s economic “miracle” during the 1980s.
Following his visit to India, Fink is scheduled to travel to Kuwait and participate in the ‘Davos in the desert’ investment event in Riyadh from October 24-26. The event is expected to feature top American CEOs such as Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Jane Fraser of Citigroup, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone, and Harvey Schwartz of Carlyle.