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BW Businessworld

Keeping Up With Rivals

Mittal’s Airtel is doing everything to remain no. 1, even considering joining hands with Jio

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Telecom tycoon Sunil Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, has diversified interests in telecom, insurance, real estate, malls, hospitality, agriculture and food among other sectors. The group’s flagship company Bharti Airtel is the world’s third largest and India’s largest telecom company, with operations in 17 countries and a customer base of 372 million.

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Mittal was elected chairman of International Chamber of Commerce in 2016. Mittal also owns Airtel Payments Bank, a niche bank, in a joint venture with Kotak Mahindra Bank, controlled by fellow billionaire Uday Kotak and Mittal’s son Kavin. In 2017, the company decided to invest up to Rs 20,000 crore this year in digital infrastructure and hinted at a possible collaboration with arch rival Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio in  future. In February 2017, Airtel bought Telenor’s ailing Indian subsidiary, Telenor India. According to the deal, Airtel took over Telenor India’s liabilities pertaining to licence fees and lease obligations for mobile towers, and got  44 million additional users for no cash payment to Telenor. Airtel also got Telenor India’s 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band as part of the deal.

In September 2017, Airtel fully acquired Tikona Digital Network’s share capital. The acquisition gave Airtel access to Tikona’s 4G spectrum in five circles. Airtel had registered a net profit of Rs 503.6 crore in early 2017. Mittal also announced in 2017 that there will be no roaming data charges and international call charges will be cut by up to 90 per cent and data charges by up to 99 per cent.