Sunil Bharti Mittal, the founder of Bharti Airtel, started with manufacturing bicycle parts when he was just 18. He graduated to importing electric power generators from Suzuki Motors. Later, in 1984, Mittal started manufacturing pushbutton phones. In early 1992, he bid for one of the four mobile phone network licences auctioned in India. To meet the condition for experience, Mittal entered into an agreement with French telecom group Vivendi. After getting clearance from the government in 1994, Mittal launched services in Delhi under Bharti Cellular in 1995.
Airtel has transformed the way Indians keep in touch— from the year-long wait for a landline connection to mobile phones that could be used anywhere and were available to everyone. In many ways, Bharti Airtel was a great leveller—it brought the luxury of communication to all irrespective of social stature and economic means. This ease of communication opened up opportunities for millions of Indians across the country, encouraging entrepreneurship. It also connected India with the rest of the world. From the days of booking a trunk call and waiting endlessly to making a call to an international number from one’s mobile phone was a transformative experience. Now, Bharti Airtel is at the forefront of the digital revolution sweeping India.
DIALLING THE FUTURE
The company is committed to spending Rs 19,300 crore in capital expenditure. It is also betting big on 4G business and has acquired Telenor India and entered into an agreement with Tikona Digital Networks. It is investing Rs 2,000 crore in the ‘Project Next’ programme to improve customer experience across its services and has also launched Airtel Payments Bank as well as online wallet Airtel Money.
RINGING IN CHANGE Sunil Mittal (third from right) at the launch of the Airtel service in Delhi