Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sunil Mittal - Asia's Businessman of the Year

Sunil Mittal has been named by Fortune as Asia's Businessman of the Year, they calls him a "Wireless Wonder" who has built a mobile-phone empire by turning outsourcing on its head. Sunil Mittal Bharti Group is partnering with Wal mart to enter the retail sector in India. Few days back I had the pleasure to listen to Sunil Mittal when he spoke about his journey from the small city of Ludhiana. It’s always a great experience to listen to Business leaders and know how they charted their success story. There is no book on leadership which can teach you leadership nor there is a defined way of developing great leaders, if there one thing which I’m sure brings the best out of us is the inspiration you get when you meet and listen to great leaders.

Few things always stand out in great leaders , the way they address the audience, the passion, the conviction the humility and love they have for the cause and the dream which they share with all. Sunil Mittal was no exception as he narrated how in 70's he started a small bicycle business with his friend in Ludhiana. Soon he realized that he needs to move to a big city to make it big and then he got into the business of importing Generators from Japan and started running his operations from Delhi and Mumbai. Just when he was finally settling down and expanding his operation the govt banned the import of generators in 1982 as tww of the Indian Companies were given license to manufacture locally.

He said how he was always interested in exploring the potential of a great product which will be a big success in India. On his trip to Taiwan Sunil saw a push button phone and that when he decided that he will sell these phones in India. He names in Mittbro as it sounded German and was an acronym of Mittal Brothers.Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL) was incorporated and entered into a technical tie up with Siemens AG of Germany and started manufacturing Push button phones, fax, cordless and other telecom equipment. Then came the days of liberalization and Sunil decided to join the fray and started competing with the big brothers in the telecom arena. Being a first generation industrialist who had no legacy or political support, he went on to prove that quality service and smart business move is always rewarded by the market.

Mittal explained how he competed with the likes of the state behemoth BSNL and Reliance by offering quality service and staying in touch with his customers. He spoke about the tough times in Bharti when the investors and his people had lost faith and how he went to meet each of him units and gave them the faith like a war general .He said his people never had any training, induction and hand holding as he was always short of people and just when they realized that they need some 20,000 additional people to compete in the market he decided to go for outsourcing of backend and office operations. He always involved his vendors as long term partners and went on to share each penny earned with them with long term partnership. He went on to strike a contracts worth $400 million in which he gave out the network operation of Bharti's entire phone network to Ericsson, Siemens and Nokia.

Later he also went out to sign a $750 million contract with IBM for 10 years and this allowed him to focus on his customers and marketing the services better. It also meant that Bharti could look out for more aggressive acquisitions and new market and new business opportunities.
So what’s Sunil Mittal style of leadership?He felt that the best style of leadership is one which develops its people to the level they need not have leaders to guide them. He shared how Bharti went on to grow by having empowered team ,how complete delegation and decentralization helped them to make smart business decision ,stay ahead and beat the odds.

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