Micromax Dials Up Pros, Names Vineet Taneja CEO
Handset maker may also rope in former Airtel India head Sanjay Kapoor as chairman
ANANDITA SINGH MANKOTIA & CHAITALI CHAKRAVARTY
Handset maker Micromax has appointed Vineet Taneja, a former senior Bharti Airtel executive, as its CEO, and is in talks with the telecom operator’s former India head, Sanjay Kapoor, for the post of chairman. People familiar with the matter also said that the company is trying to rope in Badal Bagri, another senior Bharti Airtel executive, as chief financial officer. “We are in discussions with professionals and individuals regarding certain senior management and board positions,” Vikas Jain, co-founder and business director at Micromax, told ET. “However, we can't divulge any names at this point of time and would not like to comment on market speculation on who would be the CFO or chairman,” Jain said. Kapoor, who had quit Airtel last year, and Bagri, who is serving his notice period with India's top telco, did not respond to ET’s queries about the talks. The country’s No. 2 smartphone maker currently has co-founders Jain and Rahul Sharma at the helm. Concerns were raised about Micromax’s corporate governance standards after co-founder and former MD Rajesh Agarwal resigned last year following his arrest for alleged bribery. Agarwal has denied the allegations and is currently out on bail. Soon after Agarwal’s resignation, the then CEO, Deepak Malhotra, had also quit, citing personal reasons. Micromax, which is popular for its affordable handsets, holds 16% share in the do- mestic smartphone market that is led by Samsung. The company sells over 3 million mobile handsets a month, of which about a third are smartphones.
According to IDC, the smartphone market surge in 2013 — over 44 million units shipped, up from 16.2 million in 2012 — has been mainly powered by homegrown vendors like Micromax.
People familiar with the matter said Micromax’s private equity partners have been pressing for a professional senior management to drive the company’s next phase of growth. Jain, however, denied that there was any pressure from PE players. He said the appointments were being made to realign the company to perform in a data-centric growth market.
“Apart from leading the company's growth and profitability, he (Taneja) will spearhead the transformational agenda of Micromax, given the burgeoning opportunity in the devices space globally,” Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma said in a statement on Sunday. At Airtel, Taneja had held the post of operations director for south India and Sri Lanka. Taneja was the country head for IT and mobile businesses of Samsung India till recently.
Micromax, which dropped plans of a share sale in 2011 because of poor market conditions, could be looking at an IPO in three years’ time, said a person familiar with the company’s plans.
Taneja, on his part, said that the devices business globally is at an “inflection point” and he would aim to take Micromax to markets such as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa, apart from Russia, where the company has launched sales.
Last year, Micromax roped in Hollywood star Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador to improve and expand its brand presence outside the country.
Taneja has over 25 years of experience, having worked with consumer brands like Hindustan Lever and Nokia, apart from Bharti Airtel and Samsung. He holds a degree in engineering from IIT-Roorkee and is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta.