Bharti Airtel

Meet India's mobile revolutionary

February 10, 2011: 12:02 PM ET

Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel is aggressively expanding at home and abroad to maintain momentum in an increasingly competitive market.

By Anurag Prasad, contributor

Sunil Bharti Mittal and his team at Bharti Airtel

Sunil Bharti Mittal and his team at Bharti Airtel

Sunil Bharti Mittal wants to be a big influence in the everyday lives of the nearly 200 million users of his Airtel phones across South Asia and Africa. He wants to play banker, entertainer, teacher, doctor, and countless other roles. If he succeeds, he'll not only change how they interact with the world around them, he'll also transform India's largest telecom company, Bharti Airtel.

To try to make these goals a reality, the telecom company made three big bets over the past year. In early 2010, Airtel paid $300 million for 70% of Bangladesh's Warid Telecom. Next, it clinched a $9.1 billion buyout of Zain Telecom, a Bahrain-based company operating in 16 African nations. Then, Airtel snagged a series of 3G licenses back home.

For anyone seeking insight into the firm's transformation, a conference last November would have been a good place to start. Each year, Bharti Airtel's top officials get together for three days to discuss company strategies. Dubbed the Airtel Leadership Conclave, it is Mittal's show.

This time, nearly 160 managers, vice presidents and above, met at Atlantis, The Palm, one of Dubai's shiny new hotels on the Jumierah waterfront. Around 60 were from Airtel's Africa operations, and the rest came from India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. No surprise then that the conclave's theme was 'Winning the World,' and its venue was midway between Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. More

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