Mumbai: Amid a raging debate on data localisation, richest Indian Mukesh Ambani Wednesday said "data colonisation" is as bad as previous forms of colonisation and India's data must be controlled and owned by Indians.

Speaking at Republic Summit here, Ambani, who is chairman of energy-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd, said data of an individual or business belongs to them and not to corporates who could use it to monetise from them.

"In this new world, data is the new oil. And data is the new wealth. India's data must be controlled and owned by Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations," Ambani said.

Throwing his weight behind Indian authorities seeking companies to store data locally, he said the Supreme Court has mandated that data privacy is sacrosanct.

"Therefore, for India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, necessary steps will have to be taken to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India - in other words, Indian wealth back to India," he said. "Data colonisation is as bad as the previous forms of colonisation." 

However, Ambani did not name search engine and Android-powering Google services, controversial social networking site Facebook, data-storing IBM or telecom operators like his competitors Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and his own Jio who are often accused of selling data to companies that harvest information for targeted marketing and advertisement.

Data freedom, India's richest industrialist said, is as precious as the freedom won in 1947.

The government wants companies doing business in India to store all customer data locally. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April ordered companies to store the "the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them... in a system only in India" so as to ensure "unfettered supervisory access" for "better monitoring." Companies like Google had complained about the six-month deadline.

The government too is considering a draft data-security law that requires data centres for all companies be physically located within India. Also under consideration is an e-commerce policy that requires the storage of customer data in India.

"Fundamentally, I am a big believer in the power of all of us together rather than a power of few. I think that will differentiate China and India in the long-run. My belief is that a decentralised empowered world where everybody being equal is better off than where few people are in power. That is true for data world," Ambani said.

Ambani said the world will have to go from the aggregator model to a distributor model as he backed those arguing for preventing foreign companies from repatriating and making money off of Indian consumers' data.

"Important thing is that data of an Indian belongs to him. It does not belong to a corporation, whether it be Indian or global. The only right that the corporation has is exactly like a bank that if I give you a fixed deposit locker and you put your money. which is your data in my locker, it doesn't become mine that I take that money and gamble on the stock market. If I make gain take it and then say I have given back your Rs 100. It doesn't work like that," he said.

With inputs from PTI