Akhil  Gupta

Akhil Gupta

Managing Director, Bharti Enterprises

Largely overshadowed by the family name and media attention devoted to Sunil Bharti Mittal, Akhil Gupta is Bharti Airtel's other Managing Director. Mittal is credited with the vision, but Gupta is the architect who has guided Bharti Airtel's growth.

Both directors have been in London this month to discuss acquiring a controlling stake in MTN, the South Africa-based mobile telephone giant that provides services to 68 million subscribers in 21 African and Middle-Eastern countries. Bharti has described the talks as 'exploratory', which has not dampened investors' excitement a whit.

The chartered accountant and former small-time entrepreneur has been a loyal fixture at Mittal's side since joining the company in 1994. At the time Bharti was a small manufacturer of push-button phones, supplying the Department of Telecommunications. That year, Bharti won its first cellular license and began operation as a cellular provider the following year, initially in partnership with British Telecom and Telecom Italia.

Arriving late into the market, Bharti has grown to become the largest. It now serves 62 mn. wireless customers, a market share of about 24%. The rapid expansion was helped by innovative outsourcing deals that Gupta brokered: Bharti's IT management is handled by IBM, and its network is managed by Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens.

The Bharti IPO in 2002 made Gupta a millionaire and a leadership restructuring in 2007 made him both Joint Managing Director and Director of Strategy of Bharti. Mittal has stated that he hopes to relinquish the day-to-day running of Bharti Airtel by his 50th birthday, due on 23 October. Industry observers will be watching the day, and Gupta, closely.