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No diamonds but philanthropy for Akash Ambani's rumoured fiancee Shloka Mehta

The diamond industry had no sparkle for diamantaire Russell Mehta’s daughter.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Mar 20, 2018, 09.19 AM IST
No diamonds but philanthropy for Akash Ambani's rumoured fiancee Shloka Mehta
Mehta wanted to be on the other side, giving grants, understand what things a grant maker looks at, and how they decide which NGO to give to.
For Shloka Mehta, the daughter of diamantaire Russell Mehta, the diamond industry had no sparkle. Instead, she took a shine to philanthropy early on.

When diamantaire Russell Mehta’s daughter, Shloka, says she is not interested in diamonds, it’s a bit of a surprise. Shloka, however, puts her statement into perspective. “I’ve never had an interest in business,” she said. While speaking to ETPanache ahead of a panel discussion at an event at the Bombay Stock Exchange, Shloka said, “I think the diamond industry is not very friendly to women. It’s changing [but] most women typically become jewellery designers or they work in human resources...those kinds of roles. I don’t think that I have the creative aesthetic sense to be a designer.”

So, while father and brother Viraj manage the diamond trading company, Rosy Blue, and mother Mona and sister Diya are involved in jewellery designing, Shloka wanted a role where she “could see the impact that I was creating”.

“I don’t think anyone in the family thought it was the right business for me. I think it was never even a consideration for me,” she said. Instead, the 27-year-old opted to work for the company’s philanthropic arm, Rosy Blue Foundation.

Changing mindset
The young heiress returned to India in 2014 after spending five years overseas — first to pursue her undergraduate studies at Princeton University in the US and then to complete her masters at the London School of Economics.

“I had volunteered while I was in college. And even in Mumbai while I was down for my winter and summer breaks. So, I was very committed to joining the social sector,” she said.

“I studied at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School and the curriculum involved community service. I knew then that I wanted to continue with that.”

After her return, Shloka was sure of two things: 1. She wanted to work in the social sector, and 2. She didn’t want to join an NGO. “From my experience, I had recognised that funding is a huge limitation and often your role in an NGO can be chasing grants. I wanted to be on the other side, giving grants, understand what things a grant maker looks at, and how they decide which NGO to give to etc,” she said.

The first step, she said, was to equip herself for the role of a grant maker. This included perusing books and reports on the subject as well as seeking advice on strategic philanthropy from sector experts at Dasra, a consultancy specialising in the sector.

Shloka’s main aim was to bring structure to the foundation and introduce processes. “When I joined the foundation, it did not work in an organised manner,” she said.

“We were supporting causes related to medicine, drug rehabilitation, education in Gujarat, Bombay and Indore. There was no mandate as such. I wanted to make informed decisions and be able to show impact. I didn’t think there was any value in doing a little bit of everything.”

Give and take
This signalled a different approach towards philanthropy — a move that needed a bit of understanding from the elders of the family. “In terms of conversations [that I had with my father and grandfather], the most challenging one was about what point you leave emotion behind about why and how you give. A lot of it, until my generation at least, was based on relationship,” Shloka said. “There was a slight hesitancy to ask about reporting [for details of impact] because it showed mistrust. Because I came in agnostic to all these ideas, it was easier for me to be objective.”

In the end, the three generations have learnt much from each other, with Shloka understanding commitment to the cause from her grandparents and parents, and the elders in the family learning the need to streamline giving.

Is she the girl?
Earlier this month, news that Shloka Mehta would be tying the knot with Mukesh Ambani’s son, Akash, by the end of 2018 started to do the rounds. Neither party has so far commented on the news. An email sent to Reliance Industries seeking confirmation was met with the response: “As and when any good news is to be shared, the family will be delighted to share with everyone.”

No diamonds but philanthropy for Akash Ambani's rumoured fiancee Shloka Mehta

Nita Ambani with son Akash. (Image: BCCL)

When Nita Ambani was asked at an event if a wedding was in the offing, she too neither confirmed nor denied the possibility. She simply said: “I think Mukesh and me as parents have given our children the freedom to choose their life partners. When my son decides to get married, to whoever it is, we are going to welcome [the decision] and wish him all the happiness in the world.” According to reports, Akash and Shloka studied together in Mumbai. The two belong to the same peer group and have even holidayed together in the resort town of Gstaad, Switzerland, with their siblings and friends.

Shloka’s father Russell Mehta runs a diamond trading company called Rosy Blue as well as the retail jewellery brand Orra. Shloka is the middle child. Her brother, Viraj is married to Nisha Sheth, belonging to the Great Eastern Shipping family. Sister Diya married Ayush Jatia (son of Amit Jatia of Hardcastle Restaurants) last year.
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