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Sunil Bharti Mittal
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Sunil Bharti Mittal

    Sunil Bharti Mittal is the biggest name in Indian telecom. The man who built the brands of "Bharti" and "Airtel" and made them household names. The fact is that he has built a massive business empire from almost nothing. Today, Sunil Mittal’s sprawling corporate office is in the shadow of the Qutub Minar. The positive undertone hits you as you enter the office. Satisfied employees are seen everywhere; probably this is the business secret of the great Sunil Mittal.

    Sunil’s parents were of different castes, which created uproar at that time. They were forced to adopt the surname of "Bharti" (they gave up their family name of Mittal as they were ostracized by their community). But later on, Sunil reclaimed their family of "Mittal", and came to be known as Sunil Bharti Mittal. Sunil's father was a Member of Parliament, had always been in public life. But right from a young age, Sunil wanted to create a big mark for himself in the world of business.

    When he was just 18, he started a small factory manufacturing cycle spare parts in Ludhiana. He did this by borrowing Rs. 20000 as capital. The business began to grow slowly and steadily but Sunil's sights were on something much larger. After a few years, he shifted his base to Delhi. He started operating from Delhi and Mumbai, which had become the nation’s commercial capitals. He was conducting the business of importing products from abroad, and distributing them in local markets.

    In 1983, Sunil set up his first company, Bharti Healthcare, manufacturing capsules. But the break that Sunil was looking for came to him in a totally different and unexpected dimension. At that time, the Indian government wanted to encourage indigenous manufacture of goods within the country itself. As a result of this, import of many products was banned, and this opened up a world of opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs. Sunil was quick to identify this, and move forward. The telecom revolution was beginning, with push button telephones being introduced in the country. Sunil saw the opportunity and set up a facility to manufacture push button telephones in India.

    This was just the beginning, and the group moved into manufacture of Cordless phones, answering machines, fax machines and others, soon after. In all these product segments, the Bharti group had been the first to launch them in India. But Sunil Mittal’s vision was wide; he knew that the Indian economy was at the threshold of becoming one of the largest emerging economies in the world. In the early I990's mobile phones were slowly becoming popular in the world. Once again Sunil seized the opportunity and dived headlong into this business. The Bharti group launched the “Airtel” brand of mobile telephone service in Delhi in 1995. Today, the Airtel brand is the biggest mobile phone brand in the country.

    Sunil's foresight paid off, as the Bharti group's telecom business, worth Rs.1200 crores today, put him in the bracket of the richest people in the world. Once when asked what he would attribute his success to, Sunil replied, "Right from the beginning, ours was never a trading or money making mentality, but of wanting to be recognized in our field and to establish a corporation. We did things never tried before in India. We are very fair to the people we work with (suppliers, buyers, staff). We wanted to prove that even with meager capital we could do big things. Now a corporation, we are working to make it an institution."

    An excellent initiative in the Bharti management is that all employees own stocks of the company. They, therefore have a sense of belonging. There is no "owner-worker" kind of feeling that prevails in the Bharti's corporate environment. And the popular "Hire and Fire" policy does not exist in his company either. So each individual is motivated and works towards the common goal including his ones. Sunil has not neglected his role towards society. The Bharti group is conscious about their social obligations and has set up the "Bharti Foundation'', which works towards furthering the cause of education.

    In Madhya Pradesh, they have funded over 50 schools, which are in rural and semi urban locations. They have also donated Rs. 20 crores to IIT Delhi for building a Bharti School of Technology and Management. On the personal side, Sunil is an ardent family man. He has a daughter and twin sons. He spends quality time with them whenever he can spare time from his hectic schedule. He meditates and chants mantra's every morning, besides yoga and exercise. He once said “Having a positive frame of mind can help overcome extremely bad situations.”

    Amid all this pressure, how does he relax? “I used to play golf before, now sometimes I play tennis. But I thrive on my work. For me, work is love, not stress. But I won't say there's no stress. As you come to the top of the pyramid, the intensity of competition, of jealousy, is high,” says Sunil Bharti Mittal.

    In July 2006, Sunil attracted many key executives from Reliance ADAG, NIS Sparta and created Bharti Comtel. In November 2006, he struck a joint venture deal with Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, to start a number of retail stores across India. Today, the Bharti group has a turnover of US$5 billion. On February 13, 2008, Sunil Bharti Mittal was awarded the GSM Association Chairman's Award 2008. This Award, which is the highest honour in the global telecom sector, was conferred on him for his tremendous contribution to the development of India’s telecom sector. Truly, his vision has transformed the lives of millions across India.

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