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
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.