Bharti Airtel fought hard battles and emerged stronger as a “very stable organization”, after a five-year storm in the telecom sector that was marked by falling incomes and high debt, business chairman Sunil Mittal said on Tuesday.
Speaking at an event organized by the All India Management Association (AIMA), Airtel’s top honcho said that a major turning point in his life came with the first mobile license in 1992 against very rigid opportunities.
In an interview with Sunil Kant Munjal, chairman of Hero Enterprise, Mittal said that his leadership skills early in life kept him well informed.
“My professionals will not send me anything that will compromise the management of the company. I will never ask any of them that will compromise our management,” Mittal said.
In the last 4-5 years, it became clear that the income of the industry had collapsed, even when the expenses were high, he recalls.
“There has not been a single year when we have not spent $ 3-4 billion … And that’s a lot of money … Rs 20,000 crore plus every year has ruthlessly spent this sector year after year and I just talk about India, “he said.
He further said that the situation needed to raise more capital, which the company did.
The struggle of the industry tells, Mittal said, “in the last 30 months we have raised more than $ 18 billion. We were heavily hydrated, we sold some assets and we wanted to make sure we had the money to continue investing and to fight this very difficult battle “
Airtel has come “very strongly” out of the five-year storm to be a very stable organization, he said, adding that it is under extreme pressure that testing of a real institution and character of an organization comes into play.
“I have to say with a lot of satisfaction and pride that, despite some very difficult times, we stayed on course. That means we are not taking short cuts, but playing for the long term,” Mittal said.
In 2016, when the “attack” on the sector came in the form of strong competition, some short-term and short-term decisions were made to survive instead of being driven by the vision of a sustainable company.
“We were very clear that we would not take short cuts because we will be here in the longer term. We stayed the course,” Mittal said.
In response to a question, the telecom tsar said that large companies coming to an enormous scale could possibly go for “professional leadership and professional support as a PP model”.
“When companies are young, growing and in the middle, you need a very clear sponsor who can take the call for risks,” he said.
Airtel is one of the most “professionalized” companies in the country, Mittal said, adding that the telco came stronger from wave to wave of advertising because of its robust organizational structure.
Airtel is fully managed by professionals who are the best in class, he claimed.
“But when it comes to taking risks, I have to offer my neck … if the CEO of my company has to make a risky decision, I will understand and my neck for the shareholders, stakeholders, board, etc. The combination is very powerful , “said Mittal.
The tendency of entrepreneurs not to let go was the ban of many family businesses, he observed.
“The role of an entrepreneur in Airtel is getting smaller by the day. Will we end up with PP or still stay as PE (professionally led and supported by entrepreneur), shows,” he said.
Mittal said his children follow their own passions, run their own businesses and chart their own course.
“We did not choose a typical family business … they learn outside their businesses by running their own businesses … one day someone will raise their hand and say I’m ready to come back, and be considered … who knows … at the moment, I do not see anyone who wants to do it or wants to do it, but you can never say never, “Mittal added.
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