Mumbai: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL)’s annual shareholder meetings have always been a bit like a big fat Indian wedding. That is only apt for a company that is widely credited with having launched the equity culture in India, and which has, over the years, rewarded shareholders handsomely. As chairman Mukesh Ambani pointed out at the 40th annual general meeting of the company at the Birla Matoshri auditorium in Mumbai, Rs1,000 invested in the company in 1977, when it sold shares to the public, is now worth Rs16.5 lakh.

An auditorium doesn’t really do justice to RIL’s scale—and the number of its shareholders. According to stock exchange filings, the company has close to 2.4 million retail shareholders. In 1985, 12,000 of them attended the Reliance annual general meeting at the Cooperage Football Ground in Mumbai’s Colaba. The next year, around 35,000 attended it at the city’s Cross Maidan.

The festive mood was palpable at the meeting on Friday, when about 2,000 shareholders gathered as Ambani, in a white shirt, red and white checked tie and black suit, took the stage.

After thanking shareholders, Ambani went on to talk about 40 years of the existence, performance and growth of Reliance—“Four Decades of Serving India". His speech was punctuated by thunderous applause, standing ovations and even whistles.

The star of the show, as expected, was Jio, RIL’s 10-month-old telecom venture, to which Ambani dedicated nearly half his speech. With 100 million paying Jio customers, Ambani told the shareholders, RIL had proved everyone wrong on all fronts. “Jio has broken one world record after another and proved the sceptics wrong."

The shareholders chanted “Jioooo, Jio" as Ambani spoke about its achievements, but the loudest cheers came as his son and daughter, Akash and Isha Ambani, took centre stage to launch the new JioPhone. As they introduced various features of the new handset, the audience cheered. Using the voice-activated command feature of the phone, Akash played one of the editions of the Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat radio address and a trailer for the movie Baahubali 2.

It was an emotional moment when Ambani paid homage to his late father and Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani. Mother Kokilaben Ambani was visibly moved, which made Ambani himself emotional as he spoke. A 30-minute audio-visual chronicling Dhirubhai’s speeches over the years moved several people in the audience to tears.

With a voice-over from Mukesh Ambani himself, the short film was on the relationship shared by father and son.

“I have had the good fortune of being present at each of the 40 AGMs. For the first 25 years, I sat by the side of my father, who tutored me with boundless affection, attention and hope. I can feel as if he is sitting here, smiling and talking to me and to all of you," Ambani said as the audience watched the film.

“I hear him telling me, ‘Now, you are in my place. You have the responsibility to protect Reliance and promote the interests of all its share-owners, partners and employees. I am confident that you will take Reliance to greater heights. Today, 15 years later, let us repeat the same pledge to our founder," Ambani said. Many stood up to pay homage to the RIL founder.

To top it all, shareholders received a 1:1 bonus offer.

One shareholder said he had anticipated the bonus. “On the way to the AGM, I had an intuition that you will give a bonus. This incident shows that I can read your mind much better than others," he said at the annual general meeting.

Pallavi Pengonda contributed to this story.