Asia's Richest Man Plans a Grand Wedding for His Son

The main wedding ceremony is set for July 12, followed by a grand reception on July 14 - The AP
The main wedding ceremony is set for July 12, followed by a grand reception on July 14 - The AP
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Asia's Richest Man Plans a Grand Wedding for His Son

The main wedding ceremony is set for July 12, followed by a grand reception on July 14 - The AP
The main wedding ceremony is set for July 12, followed by a grand reception on July 14 - The AP

In March, Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani threw a three-day prenuptial bash for his son that included a 1,200-person guest list, including former world leaders, tech tycoons and Bollywood's megastars, and a performance by renowned singer Rihanna.

It was only the start of their months-long lavish pre-wedding celebrations which have grabbed headlines and set off a social media frenzy.

In May, the family took guests on a 3-day pre-wedding cruise from Italy to France, which included a DJ set from David Guetta, Katy Perry belting out her hit song “Firework” and a performance by Pitbull to cap it off, according to media reports.

Finally, the wedding is set for next week, with Anant Ambani, 29, marrying his longtime girlfriend, Radhika Merchant, in what many have dubbed the wedding of the year, according to The AP.

Here’s what we know:

Who are the Ambanis? The father of the groom is Mukesh Ambani, 66, currently the world’s 9th richest man with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.

His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.

The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.

Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.

The family patriarch has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio, their telecoms business; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail, while the groom Anant, the youngest, has been inducted into the new energy business.

Who are the bride and groom? Anant has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, according to Reliance Industries’ website, and oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion.

He also runs a 3,000-acre (nearly 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center called Vantara in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown where guests in March spent days celebrating in the extravagant pre-wedding party.

The bride, Radhika Merchant, 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.

She told the magazine that the two were introduced through mutual friends in 2017. “That first meeting just sparked something special between us, and it wasn’t long before we started dating,” she said.

When’s the wedding and what’s expected? The main wedding ceremony is set for July 12, followed by a grand reception on July 14, according to local media. Celebrations are expected to be split between the Ambani’s Jio World Convention Center in Mumbai city and their family home.

The dates were reportedly chosen based on the couple's birth charts, as is typical in Hindu custom, and deemed auspicious. Also keeping with tradition, the wedding will be preceded by days of traditional wedding events and rituals.

On Friday, Indian social media was abuzz with videos from the couple’s sangeet, a ceremony where the bride and groom’s families perform dances for the guests. It also included performances by Bollywood stars like Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh and Salman Khan as well as Justin Bieber, who flew to Mumbai for the event, according to local media.

The family also organized a mass wedding for more than 50 underprivileged couples last week, as part of the pre-wedding celebrations.

Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty and next week’s events are expected to draw more celebrities, billionaires and world leaders.

In March for the pre-wedding bash, the guest list included Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, former leaders of Canada and Qatar as well as Bollywood’s A-list stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. In addition to Rihanna, Akon and Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi singer who shot to international fame when he performed at Coachella, also took the stage.

In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.



Moonlit Scramble across the Sand for Türkiye Booming Baby Turtle Population

Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
TT

Moonlit Scramble across the Sand for Türkiye Booming Baby Turtle Population

Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP
Baby loggerhead sea turtles' first challenge in life is a wobbly dash across the sand. KEMAL ASLAN / AFP

The baby loggerhead sea turtles emerged from their eggshells and began their first challenge in life: a wobbly dash across the sand to the moonlit waters of Türkiye’s Mediterranean coast -- sometimes with a helping hand from volunteers.
It is a perilous journey into the unknown for the sea turtles as only about one in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.
Some 25 years later, the females will return to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.
Despite grave threats from humans and predators such as birds, crabs and ants, protection measures are bearing fruit on Türkiye's southern coast.
In Manavgat, a tourist hotspot nestled in the foothills of mountains and prized for its golden sands and stunning waterfall, the number of nests has doubled from last year to 700.
A group of volunteers holds vigil around the clock along the 10-kilometer (six-mile) coastline, located east of the local tourism capital of Antalya.
It is a major breeding area for the globally endangered loggerheads -- also known as caretta caretta -- which are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list of threatened species.
"Our average estimate this year is around 60,000 eggs; 30,000 of them will become babies; only 30 of them will come back years later" to breed, Seher Akyol, founding president of DEKAFOK marine conservation center, told AFP.
Red lights
Türkiye's southern coast is home to 21 official nesting areas -- eight of them in Antalya alone.
Protection measures have been put in place such as limiting the use of light and the speed of sea vessels.
Many beaches are declared protected areas and are off-limits from 8 pm to 8 am.
Manavgat, though, is not one of them, so volunteers have taken on the task of protecting the breeding nests.
Akyol's volunteers, including young students from all over Türkiye and abroad, mark the nests, framing them with sticks and keeping the eggs protected from sunbathers.
At night, they patrol beaches, dig in nests with their bare hands and, donning white gloves, help baby turtles break from their shells and crawl to the sea.
Local officials also support volunteer initiatives.
Manavgat's mayor, Niyazi Nefi Kara, has placed red lights on roadsides along the coast. Signs that read "Attention! Caretta Nesting Area" dot the beach.
Under the environment law, anyone who damages sea turtles and their nests can be fined 387,141 liras ($11,700).
Kara said his office takes advice from "scientists and environmentalists" on protecting the turtles.
"After all, we need to learn how to live in harmony with nature," he said.
Akyol added that "people and caretta caretta can live together".
Songul Sert, 33, who was picnicking with her family around a wooden table near the beach, said "we do our best so as not to usurp their living space" with help from the signs.
Another local, Hasan Gulec, said that previously a lack of signs meant that "nobody knew where they were breeding, so anyone could walk on nests".
However, an AFP team saw some hotels along the beach still using the bright white lights that anger environmentalists.
-Climate change-
Loggerheads, whose overall numbers are unknown, can live for up to 80 years. Their weight ranges from 90-180 kilograms (200-400 pounds) and they can reach 1.2 meters (four feet) in length.
The small percentage of hatchlings that return to the beach to breed is why "they are endangered and need to be protected," Professor Mehmet Cengiz Deval of Akdeniz University's faculty of fisheries told AFP.
Loggerhead sea turtles are found primarily in subtropical and temperate regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to IUCN, the Mediterranean loggerhead is considered of "least concern", though the species remains vulnerable globally.
Climate change is also a factor that threatens the species.
The sex of hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the sand: cooler temperatures produce males and warmer ones produce females.
High temperatures from July onwards means that "most of the babies are females," Deval said.
"If this trend continues, in 30-40 years females will be the majority and there will be no male partners for them to breed. This is the biggest danger."
Akyol, who dreams of building a rehabilitation center to treat injured turtles, cannot hide her excitement each time she sends them off to the water.
"I cannot forget their last look before meeting with the water," she said. "It's as if they show how grateful they are."